How To Tell If You Have A Dry Socket After Teeth Extraction  

Whenever you have one of your teeth extracted, you are running the risk of being affected by something called a dry socket. Once you get a tooth removed, the blood clot forms over that extraction area protecting it from further damage.  Dry socket basically happens when the blood clot at the site of extraction either fails to develop or is somehow dislodged or dissolved, before the wound has healed. It’s only natural to be worried whether or not you are affected by a dry socket condition, because this condition can be very painful, which is, of course, something all of us want to avoid.

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Patients are often misled into believing that they have a dry socket, just because their teeth socket feels sort of empty after a few days of recovery. Depending on your gum condition, healing can take anywhere between a few days to a few weeks, but if you are worried that you are affected by a dry socket, lets take a look at some symptoms you’d be showing if you were.

Dry socket symptoms

If you indeed have a dry socket, you will probably start experiencing pain a couple of days after the extraction. Instead of seeing the blood clot in the extracted socket, you’ll be able to see a little bit of bone showing.

There is a variety of different degrees of a dry socket. For example, if you’re experiencing pain, but you can’t see any bone, it’s most likely that the blood clot has been slightly dislodged from it’s original position, leaving a little bit of the underlying tissue exposed. The level of pain can be excruciating, especially when eating or drinking extremely hot or cold food or drinks. Some patients also experience an unpleasant smell coming out from the extraction spot and a weird taste in their mouth.

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Who is at risk of getting a dry socket?

What causes a dry socket still remains the subject of the studies, but there are a few things the researchers are certain of, such as bacterial contamination. Although a dry socket only affects very small percentage of patients, there are some common things that increase the chances of you being affected by this condition after teeth extraction.

  • Smokers and tobacco users. All of the chemicals in cigarettes and other forms of tobacco can prevent or at least slow the healing and infect the wound, and also the act of sucking on a cigarette can physically affect the blood clot.
  • Oral contraceptives with high levels of estrogen can also affect the normal healing process and can definitely increase the risk of developing a dry socket.
  • Inadequate dental care. As with any other dental issue, poor hygiene can worsen the situation. Brushing your teeth twice a day, followed by flossing and mouth rinsing is a necessity, whether you had your tooth extracted or not.
  • Previous cases of dry sockets. If you already had some of your teeth extracted before and you managed to develop a dry socket, you are unfortunately more likely to have it once again.
  • Teeth or gum infections can also definitely be catalysts in developing of the dry socket.

Can you stop a dry socket development?

When you have your tooth extracted, you’ll definitely receive the instructions about what to do and what to expect until the healing is complete, as well as how to care for the wound. Proper at-home treatment can help with the healing and prevent any further damage to the empty socket. Let’s take a look at the few things that you can do in order to lower the risks of developing a dry socket.

  • Physical activity. After the extraction, try to rest at least for the remaining part of that day, or if possible, even a few days after. Ask your dentist about recommendations on when to resume normal activities and how to conduct them without running the risk of dislodging the blood clot.
  • Smoking and tobacco usage. If you’re a smoker, try not to smoke for at least two days after the procedure and for as long as possible after that time. If you’re having problems with this, ask you doctor for advice on how to stop smoking, at least temporarily, because you run the biggest risk of developing a dry socket.
  • Pain management. You can always take over the counter medication, such as aspirin, but what you can also do is apply cold packs on the area, to help decrease the swelling and the pain as well.
  • Proper diet. First of all, avoid alcohol, coffee and carbonated drinks for as long as possible, and instead drink a lot of water, all while avoiding using the straws, because they can affect the blood cloth the same way that sucking on a cigarette can. As for foods, try eating mostly soft foods, such as purees and yogurts for the first few days, and also try to stay away from extremely hot or extremely cold food.
  • Oral hygiene. After the extraction, you can follow the same oral routine you are used to but be careful around the wound area for the first 24 to 48 hours.
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Dry socket treatment

First things first, you should schedule a dentist appointment as soon as possible, so you get some prescription medication for the dry socket treatment. Until then, you can ease the discomfort by taking over the counter pain relievers, also known as anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen or aspirin.

When you get to your dentist’s office, he’ll first examine the area, clean it and get rid of any debris that’s stuck in the socket and then apply a special paste to help your gums heal. The healing time depends on your condition specifically, and your dentist might also recommend the mouthwash that is specifically designed to tackle conditions like this.

Although a dry socket is the most common complication that follows the tooth extraction, keep in mind that only a small percentage of patients is affected by this unfortunate condition, so even if you do feel discomfort, it’s probably a false alarm, but just to be on the safe side, you should still pay a visit to your dentist and have your situation checked out.

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–> ATTENTION: Anyone who has a fear of dentists…
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John D

Joh is the editor at Toothsy.com where we're passionate about you getting the best tips about oral health. There are a lot of questions asked about every detail of this topic and that's where we come in, to answer them as quickly and helpfully as possible for you.

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