While extracting a tooth these days is not generally painful the after effects can be, particularly the jaw and the socket left behind. A blood clot also occurs in the socket which in most people quickly heals; bone and gum tissue eventually replace the clot.
However in a small group of people, around 3% – 5% of tooth extractions, the blood clot gets cleaned away, leaving a dry hole or socket. The latter is then susceptible to infection as the underlying jawbone is bared to foodstuff and air. The area is also often very painful.
Who is more susceptible?
Although a relatively rare condition there are particular groups who are more susceptible to dry socket. These include those who smoke, diabetics and females taking birth control prescriptions. It also occurs more often in molar and premolar teeth, including third molar teeth also known as impacted wisdom teeth.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
The area around the gap will start to feel painful after about 3 or 4 days. It tends to spread out thereafter. Some patients may experience pain along the side of the face or in the ear, although this is generally for those who have had lower back teeth extracted. Unfortunately normal painkillers are not usually that effective.
The condition is known to be a cause of halitosis and some people say they also experience a dire taste in the mouth. In order to ensure proper diagnosis it is advisable to visit the dentist as quickly as possible once the pain occurs. They will most likely take an X-Ray in order to see if there are any fragments of bone in the socket.
Dry socket may ensure for several weeks although treatment by the dentist can decrease the ache through this time. It should be noted though that any dry socket that doesn’t heal is likely to be an indication of some other medical condition.
Dentists normally treat dry socket by first rinsing the area with an antiseptic mouthwash or saline solution. This will remove any debris still lodging in the hole. A local anaesthetic may also be administered to ease discomfort. A pack is then inserted into the socket composed of medicated dressing or paste. This may have to be changed regularly – a few days or so.
Once dressings are removed patients are given advice on how best to rinse the area. Pain relief may also be arranged. That said, once dressings have been applied, the pain should subside quite quickly.
Maintaining proper oral health is vital, particularly for those in one of the high risk groups. Teeth should be cleaned regularly, and before any tooth is extracted. However after extraction it is probably best to clean and rinse gently. To prevent clots being dislodged after a tooth is removed, drinking through a straw should be avoided while it is also important to try not to spit too much. As with many things, smoking doesn’t help. It slows down the recovery process.
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