What is a dry socket tooth?

A dry socket is actually a pretty rare condition that happens after an extraction. Normally when you have a tooth extracted, the process is relatively pain free, but on rare occasions, the socket can be painful for a period of time afterwards without any reason. Dentists refer to this as a dry socket, due to the fact that it’s commonly believed that the reason for the pain is due to a dislodged blood clot which leaves the nerves of the socket exposed.

Occurring in just 5% of extractions, a dry socket tooth is really quite rare. The good news is that it’s something that’s not permanent as even if a dry socket develops, it should heal itself within around a week. Studies have found that dry sockets are more likely to occur with smokers and those who have been sneezing / coughing / sucking  i.e. using a straw immediately after their extraction.

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to try and avoid. After having a tooth extracted, it’s important to follow the dentist’s post-extraction care regimen and when eating to try and keep food away from the extraction site.  Smokers should try their best to avoid smoking for as long as possible after an extraction as it really can increase the chances of a dry socket tooth considerably.

Normally after an extraction pain should subside within 12 – 24 hours. If pain continues after 48 hours, it’s down to a dry socket that has formed. When this happens, there are a few treatments that you can try at home such as topical anesthetic, clove oil (which contains eugenol) and regular saline mouthwashes with warm water.

Keeping the area clean is the best way to ensure that a dry socket doesn’t happen. Try to eat soft foods and avoid sugar / hot & cold liquids after the extraction to ensure that nerves aren’t jolted. If a dry socket forms, it will subside within a few days.

There are a few rare occasions where the pain simply won’t go away, and you might be surprised to learn that phantom tooth pain is just as real as phantom limb pain. While not all dentists acknowledge the fact, it’s something to consider if that pain just won’t go away, and the dentist isn’t sure what the problem is.

Fortunately, all of these problems are extremely rare occurrences. Keeping the exposed socket clean and ensuring that the wound has time to heal is the biggest thing that you can do in order to prevent this problem from occurring. If it does occur, there’s nothing to be alarmed about, but you might want to contact your dentist just to be sure there’s not another problem that’s causing the pain.

Extractions are safe, quick and unfortunately necessary.  It’s a safe procedure with very few complications, and a dry socket tooth is one of them and even still, it’s a relatively minor one. Compared to the risks of leaving teeth in and letting them decay and develop an abscess, the extraction really is worth the discomfort.

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