Dry Socket / Infection

What is Dry Socket?
Dry socket is an unpleasant complication that can occur following the extraction of a tooth. After removing a tooth, the doctor usually will place a piece of gauze over the area and ask the patient to bite down on it for 30-45 minutes. Normally during this time, the pressure helps keep the developing blood clot in place – a very important part of the healing process. Sometimes the blood clot does not form in the first day or two after the extraction, or it forms but breaks down for some reason. The result is called osteitis or Dry Socket. The symptoms include an unpleasant taste, a foul smell and pain.

Who gets it?
The causes of this puzzling condition are not completely known. Patients who smoke or use tobacco products, who have gum disease and who have extractions in the lower jaw – particularly back teeth – are more likely to experience Dry Socket.

When Dry Socket occurs, healing can slow down and the “hole” in the patient’s mouth where the extraction occurred will require extra care and possibly involve postoperative care office visits.

There is no proven way to avoid Dry Socket. However, the following may help prevent its occurrence:
Limit strenuous activity. This will reduce bleeding and help the clot to form
Avoid hot liquids, tobacco products, alcohol and drinking through a straw because they may dislodge the blood clot.
Do not vigorously clean the teeth around the extraction site. Be very gentle and careful not to disturb the site. Rinse gently as well.
Stay well nourished. Drink lots of liquids and eat soft, nutritious foods. Do not chew on anything hard or crunchy. Begin eating solid foods the day after your extraction, or as soon as you can chew comfortably. Try to chew food on the side opposite the extraction site.
If you experience swelling or pain, you can help reduce them by periodically applying cold compresses to the face for 20-30 minutes at a time. Use an ice bag or cold, moist cloth.
If you develop a Dry Socket, or think you may have, contact our office immediately for further information.

How is it treated?
The doctor can carefully irrigate (wash) the wound , and may do so several different times. A gauze dressing soaked with antiseptics and other medications may be placed in the Dry Socket to protect it until the socket heals. Sometimes antibiotics will be required if an infection is aggravating the socket.

The doctor may prescribe medication to control pain and infection. Use it only as directed. If you have prolonged or severe pain, swelling, bleeding or fever, call the office immediately.

Be kind to yourself. Tooth extraction is a surgical procedure. It is natural that temporary changes will occur in the mouth afterward. Take it easy, eat healthy, keep your mouth clean and communicate with the doctor if you have questions or problems. 

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