Dry socket is one of the complications of wisdom tooth extraction that every patient dreads, but it’s actually less common than you might think. A 2016 study found that only 1.8 percent of patients experienced dry socket after a tooth extraction and by following the aftercare guidelines we provide to you during your appointment, you can minimize the risk of this painful condition. Whether you’re worried about dry socket before your wisdom tooth extraction or you think you might have dry socket, here are the dry socket symptoms you should be aware of.
What Is Dry Socket?
First, let’s talk about what it means to have dry socket, or alveolar osteitis. After your wisdom tooth extraction, you’ll be given a piece of gauze to bite down on. This stops the bleeding and promotes the formation of a blood clot.
Once the blood clot has formed, care must be taken to keep it from becoming dislodged or dissolved—this is why you’re told not to smoke, exercise, or use straws in the hours after your wisdom tooth extraction. Sometimes even if you do everything right, you can still dislodge the blood clot and get dry socket, but it’s important to follow our instructions to minimize the risk as much as possible.
With the blood clot dislodged, you essentially have an open wound with exposed bone and nerves, which can cause a great deal of pain.
Symptoms of Dry Socket
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s likely that you have dry socket:
- You can see the bone in your socket. This is one of the most obvious signs of dry socket. Use a mirror to look inside your mouth and examine the extraction site. If you see white in the socket rather than a blood clot, you have dry socket.
- You’re experiencing throbbing pain. The pain may originate in your jaw, but it can extend all the way up to your ears, eyes, and temples, and all the way down to your neck. This usually starts within three days of your extraction.
- There’s a bad taste in your mouth or you notice that you have bad breath. Food particles can collect in the socket when it’s not protected by a blood clot, causing odor.
What to Do If You Suspect You Have Dry Socket
If you have any of the symptoms listed above, it’s important to get prompt treatment. While dry socket doesn’t usually result in any further complications, it is very painful and we want to ensure that your recovery is comfortable. Dry socket can prolong your healing time and in rare circumstances, it may lead to infection of the socket and bone. Call our office right away to schedule an appointment.
During your appointment, we will clean the socket to prevent infection and we may also insert a medicated dressing to protect the wound and treat your pain. Depending on the severity of your dry socket, we may recommend continuing to use medicated dressing at home or prescribe a pain reliever.
With treatment, you’ll start feeling some degree of relief immediately, and your symptoms should resolve in a matter of days.