Dental Care

Dry Socket Symptoms and Treatment

Dry socket symptoms? If you've ever faced a tooth extraction, perhaps you've heard of a painful potential complication called dry socket. 

When you've had a tooth pulled, your blood clots in the empty extraction space. Throughout the entire surrounding area, your body works to heal your gum and bone tissue, and the blood clot is central to that.

A process called granulation occurs in which gum tissues regenerate the connective tissue that will make your mouth whole and well again.

But when the blood clot is dislodged, your mouth is left with an empty, unhealed space.  The symptoms are unmistakably painful, and just about the only thing you can do to get past this stage is let it heal.  And it can take several weeks to get completely better.

What Are Dry Socket Symptoms? 

Just about everyone experiences discomfort after a tooth extraction.  Once the Novocain wears off, pain will set in -you've got lots of exposed nerve endings that are hollering about the insult they've endured! 

Under normal conditions, your tooth pain will decrease after a day or two.  You will get back to your normal routine, and mostly just the empty space in your mouth and some residual tenderness will remind you of what has happened.  The pain lessens every day as the healing occurs.

But some people experience increased pain around the second or third day after the extraction.   The pain is worse than what was experienced immediately after the tooth was pulled; it ranges from moderate all the way to pretty intense.  Many people describe it as a throbbing pain. 

Most of the time, the pain localizes around the extraction area.  In extreme cases, people complain about the pain radiating to other parts of the jaw, or the ear or eye on the same side of the face where the tooth was pulled. 

There is an extensive system of nerves in this area, and when there is pressure on or along a nerve the pain can be felt quite a distance away from the pressure point.

The tooth socket appears to be empty -and it actually has been emptied of the clot that was forming.  In some cases you might even notice the whitish color of the bone beneath the socket. 

One of the reasons that a dry socket is so painful is that the entire area comprising gum tissue and bone becomes inflamed and even possibly infected.

Besides the pain, the most common dry socket symptoms are a bad taste in the mouth as well as a foul odor on the breath. 

Sometimes debris accumulates in the empty socket, which we will discuss in greater depth in our section on treatment.  Both the taste and the odor are the result of this debris as well as any infection that exists in the area. 

You might also notice that the lymph nodes in your neck or under your jaw become swollen.  There are multiple pairs of these nodes in this area; they generate the white blood cells or antibodies that go out on clean-up duty whenever there's an infection in your body. 

Since dry socket symptoms either begin with an infection or can cause one, your lymph nodes might be working overtime, and you will notice that they are enlarged and tender. 

That's why it's important for your dentist to make certain that your mouth is free of infection or debris when he begins an extraction. 

Many people who go to the dentist's office under the pain of toothache will beg the dentist to pull a tooth immediately without a protective course of antibiotics

But the antibiotics are necessary to eliminate infection before he begins work, because infection that is already present in the mouth is a frequent precursor of dry socket. 

Post-extraction care is also important.  Many people develop dry socket symptoms because they don't follow the dentist's aftercare instructions. 

For thirty to sixty minutes after you leave the dentist's office, you must keep a gauze pad pressed firmly against the extraction site.  This is of prime importance in allowing the blood clot to form completely.

Do your part to let the clot heal your mouth: Avoid spitting and vigorous rinsing.  Extremes of heat or cold such as iced drinks, coffee, or soup must be avoided as well as spicy food.  And since you won't feel like climbing Pike's Peak anyway, spend some extra time in bed. 

You should never suck on a straw or smoke cigarettes after an extraction.  Not only does smoking a cigarette duplicate the same kind of suction as a straw, but the pollutants in the cigarette smoke will damage your delicate gum tissues.

Let your dentist know if you've ever experienced dry socket symptoms before.  If you've had it once, you are at a higher risk to develop it again. 


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