Dealing With Dry Socket After Your Wisdom Tooth Extraction
After having a wisdom tooth extraction, you will inevitably experience some pain and discomfort. If this pain becomes particularly intense or doesn't resolve after a few days, you could be experiencing a symptom of dry socket (alveolar osteitis). This condition occurs in roughly two to five percent of patients and is highly treatable.
When you have teeth pulled, a blood clot will form in the empty socket. The purpose of this blood clot is to protect the jaw bone and surrounding nerves. Dry socket forms when this blood clot dissolves or becomes dislodged. This leaves the bone and nerves exposed to air, food and liquid.
Causes and Prevention
Your risk of developing dry socket will greatly increase if you smoke, use birth-control pills or have a history of dry socket. Sucking too hard can also be problematic, as it could dislodge the blood clot. Therefore, eating food through a straw is not advisable until the bleeding is under control. Poor oral hygiene can enhance or prolong symptoms. Due to the sensitivity of the wisdom tooth socket after oral surgery, it's not always possible keep the area clean. Rinsing your mouth with a salt water solution will help fight off infection and keep your mouth in good shape until you're able to use a toothbrush again.
Your dentist will thoroughly clean the empty socket of debris and fill it with a medicated paste that will promote healing at the end of your oral surgery. If the pain doesn't naturally subside, they can repeat this process daily until the socket starts to heal. Your dentist may also prescribe antibiotics, which will prevent an infection from developing. If the socket is particularly sensitive, your dentist may administer more anaesthetic to dull the pain.
While medical assistance should be sought if you suspect dry socket, there are various home treatments that could help relieve pain if a 24-hour dentist isn't available in times of need. Placing a few drops of clove oil onto a gauze pad or cotton ball, and packing it over the area, can provide temporary pain relief. Over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, may also be enough to relieve the pain until the wound heals.
Dry socket takes an average of seven to ten days to resolve. This is roughly the amount of time it takes for new tissue to grow over the socket. As long as dry socket infections are treated before they spread, there are no long-term consequences.