Dry Socket: Symptoms & Treatment

What is dry socket, what are some common symptoms and how is it often caused? Our Edmonton dentists explain what you need to know about this dental emergency, including treatment options.

What is dry socket?

Dry socket is a painful but easily treatable dental emergency that can develop following a tooth extraction. This condition requires follow-up care by a dentist.  

What causes dry socket?

A blood clot forms over the extraction site while your mouth heals from tooth extraction.

However, if the blood clot becomes dislodged or never forms properly, dry socket (alveolar osteitis) develops as the nerve beneath your gum is exposed to bacteria, food debris, fluid and air. Spitting or rinsing excessively or drinking through a straw can also increase your risk of getting dry socket. Fortunately, it is an uncommon condition. 

Some people may also have a higher risk of developing dry socket after having a tooth extracted. This includes people who: 

  • Have poor oral hygiene 
  • Have wisdom teeth extracted 
  • Smoke 
  • Use birth control pills 
  • Have more trauma than is typical during a tooth extraction surgery
  • Have a history of dry socket after tooth extraction 

What are common signs of dry socket?

When dry socket does occur, it typically happens within 2 to 5 days after an extraction that may lead to infection and severe pain that can persist for 5 o 6 days. Dry socket symptoms can include:

  • Dull, throbbing or sharp pain at the extraction site, which can become more severe and radiate to the ear
  • Bad breath
  • Unpleasant smell or taste in your mouth
  • Dry looking opening at the extraction site
  • Whitish bone instead of dark blood clot where tooth was pulled 

How to Know If You Have Dry Socket

Since the symptoms listed above can indicate a few dental emergencies, it's critical to see a dentist as soon as possible so the issue can be properly diagnosed and treated. 

Once our Edmonton dentists have examined your mouth, they'll be able to identify the problem and recommend treatment options. 

Treatment for Dry Socket at Emergency Dental Clinics

To ease pain or discomfort, you may consider taking over-the-counter ibuprofen. That said, sometimes over-the-counter medication may not be enough to alleviate pain, in which case your dentist may prescribe medication. 

During your appointment with your dentist at Emergency Dental Clinics, the tooth socket will be cleaned and any debris removed from the hole. 

The dentist will then use medicated dressing or a special paste to fill the socket and encourage healing. You'll likely need to come back to see your dentist for a dressing change as the socket begins to heal and pain decreases. 

You may also receive a prescription for antibiotics to prevent infection. The dentist may also recommend rinsing daily with salt water or a special mouthwash at home. 

Preventing Dry Socket

Since smoking is a common factor in dry socket development, avoiding cigars, cigarettes and any other tobacco products for one or more days after your surgery is recommended. 

The estrogen in birth control pills can affect the ability of blood to clot, which means your dentist may need to perform the extraction on a day when you are receiving the lowest dose of the hormone. 

Following your tooth extraction surgery, avoid spitting or drinking through a straw for the first few days. Also, don't rinse your mouth more than your dentist recommends, and if you do rinse, do so gently. Make sure to see your dentist for any follow-up visits. 

Are you experiencing pain or other symptoms of dry socket? Contact our Edmonton dentists right away. We can examine the extraction area and recommend treatment options.

Have a dental emergency in Edmonton? We're here on weekends and after hours to help.

Dental emergencies always happen when you least expect them. Our friendly and experienced dental team is on call to assist you when you need us most.

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