If you are scheduled to have a tooth extraction, your dentist will likely give you a list of post-operative instructions. Some of these post-operative instructions will help you prevent the incidence of a dry socket. After a tooth extraction service, a blood clot will form over the socket and protect the underlying bone and nerves during healing. However, this blood clot can sometimes become dislodged, leading to a painful condition called dry socket. Read on to learn more about this condition and how to treat it.
What Causes a Dry Socket?
Irritating the area with the wrong foods or a toothbrush could dislodge the blood clot and cause dry socket. Sucking motions, such as drinking through a straw or smoking, can also dislodge a clot and cause dry socket. However, certain procedures (like a history of radiation therapy for cancer) or medications (like bisphosphonates and some oral contraceptives) can make some patients prone to dry socket. Your dentist can go over your risk factors with you and how to prevent this problem.
Why is Dry Socket a Dental Emergency?
A dry socket is an emergency because healing processes are interrupted and a patient could develop a serious infection, like dental abscesses. A dry socket can cause painful symptoms since underlying bone structures and nerves are exposed. This pain can vary in intensity from patient to patient, but some people may experience pain that radiates from their ears down through their neck. Some people may also experience swelling, dizziness, headaches, or insomnia.
How Can a Dentist Treat a Dry Socket?
Your dentist will need to irrigate the socket with an antibacterial mouthwash, like chlorhexidine. They will then want to place a new dressing on the wound, like lidocaine gel or iodoform paraffin paste, and protect the area with gauze. Wound dressings can prevent pathogens from causing infections, reduce pain in the area, and encourage healing. If the socket has already become infected and has pus, your dentist may prescribe oral antibiotics. Your dentist may also take x-rays to check for retained root structures or bony sequestrums (dead bone tissue around healthy bone) that could be irritating the site and preventing healing. If there is an infection present, your dentist will debride the socket of infected tissue before placing a new wound dressing. Your dentist may also ask you to use over-the-counter medications at home to manage the pain and apply hot/cold compresses to reduce any swelling.
Reach out to an emergency dental care service to learn more about post-operative instructions and how to prepare for your tooth extraction.