Alveolar osteitis, also known as “dry socket” can happen after a tooth has been extracted. Usually when you have a tooth removed, a blood clot forms in the socket which protects the nerves and bone in your gum. If the clot is knocked out, dislodged or fails to form, the socket where the tooth was can become painful as it can’t heal as fast and the nerves are exposed. This is known as dry socket.
Dry socket is most common after wisdom teeth removal but can happen after the extraction of any tooth. Here are the symptoms to look out for:
Dry socket does not occur very often, only 2% to 5% of people who have tooth extractions develop it. Women are at a slightly higher risk for dry socket than men and teeth extracted from the lower jaw also carry a slightly higher risk than those removed from the upper jaw. While there is no definitive medical reason for developing dry socket, there are several factors that can contribute to it.
Usually, dry socket isn’t anything to worry about and in most cases it just heals on its own in about a week. If you are experiencing pain after a tooth extraction, come back in to see your dentist. It’s easy to see if a clot is present or not, so dry socket can be quickly diagnosed.
Your dentist can clean the area and fill it with gauze or other medical material to protect the socket, lessen your pain and help it heal. You can take over-the-counter pain relievers if you need to or ask your dentist if anesthesia or other pain relief is an option. You may need to use a special mouthwash or saline rinse at home to keep the area clean.
It’s not always possible to prevent or avoid dry socket, or alveolar osteitis, but you can take some preventive steps:
Dry socket does not happen very often but if it does happen to you, contact your dentist for more information.