Dry Socket Treatment Overview
Dry socket treatment is focused on relieving pain in the exposed tooth socket and promoting healing of the extraction site. If you have pain that suddenly begins to worsen a few days after you have a tooth extracted, contact your dentist immediately. The sooner you address the symptoms of this complication, the faster you can get relief.
How Does Dry Socket Treatment Work?
Dry socket occurs when the blood clot that forms in the hole left by an extracted tooth is disrupted in some way. The clot serves several important roles:
- It helps keep the socket moist and comfortable, reducing inflammation and irritation
- It prevents bacteria and food debris from penetrating into the exposed jaw tissue
- It covers up and protects the delicate nerves in the extraction site
- It provides the ideal materials and surface to start the healing process and support the growth of new gum and bone tissue
Dry socket treatment focuses on numbing pain while protecting the extraction site during healing. It can’t replace all the functions of a natural blood clot. Unfortunately, the initial blood clot that forms after tooth extraction doesn’t “grow back” once it’s been dislodged (unless your dentist re-injures the site). This means if you do have dry socket, you are looking at a prolonged healing time. However, the end result should be a full recovery with the socket filled with bone and covered by healthy gum tissue. Once an initial layer of new tissue forms in the socket, the symptoms of pain and inflammation should subside and healing can progress normally.
Pain Medication and Dry Socket Treatment
The first thing your dentist will want to do is ease your discomfort. For severe cases that don’t respond to over-the-counter painkillers, you may need prescription medication. In extreme cases, your dentist may block the nerve to provide relief. There may also be topical anesthetics that can numb the area. Some dentists use clove oil for this purpose. However, you should not put any over-the-counter product into your dry socket without asking your dentist first. Regardless of what type of pain relief is prescribed, you should begin feeling better soon after treatment begins (within hours at most). The pain should lessen over time and fully resolve within five to 10 days if no further complications occur.
Dry Socket Treatment: Extraction Site Care
It’s absolutely imperative to keep the socket area clean once it has been exposed. Your dentist will gently wash away or manually remove any debris or dead tissue that is in the socket. You may also be provided with a plastic syringe to irrigate and clean the area at home with salt water on a daily basis. This cleaning may also involve the use of an antiseptic mouthwash. If there is a risk of infection, your dentist may prescribe an oral antibiotic.
The next step is to pack the wound. Keeping a moist, medicated dressing on the wound is just as important for reducing discomfort as any painkiller. The dressing effectively covers up the exposed nerves so they don’t twinge and throb with exposure to air, food or drink. The dressing may be treated with both antibiotics and pain relieving gel. Traditional medicated dressings are made of gauze and need to be changed by your dentist each day for a few days. Alveogyl is an alternative dressing that serves the same purpose. It is a kind of fibrous paste that gradually dissolves over time.
Regardless of the details of your dry socket treatment, your healing will need to be closely monitored by your dentist to ensure there are no further complications. After one or two weeks, the bone in your jaw should be covered with a thin layer of new tissue that will protect the nerves and help keep infection at bay. Pain should be fully resolved at this time along with any residual inflammation or infection.