What is a dry socket? Who is likely to get dry socket?
Dry socket, a common complication after a tooth extraction, occurs when a blood clot has failed to form in the socket, or the blood clot that did form has been dislodged. This leaves the underlying bone and nerves exposed to air and food. Often quite painful, dry socket typically appears two to five days after extraction and can cause a bad odor or taste.
Dry socket is most frequently associated with difficult or traumatic tooth extractions, such as the extraction of lower wisdom teeth. It occurs more often with people over the age of 30, smokers, those with poor oral hygiene habits and women (particularly those taking oral contraceptives). Unless there is an emergency, experts recommend that women using oral contraceptives schedule their extractions during the last week of their menstrual cycle, when estrogen levels are lower.
How is dry socket treated?
You can take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, to ease the discomfort. Sometimes these over-the-counter medications aren't enough to relieve the pain. When that's the case, your doctor may prescribe a stronger drug or will anesthetize the area.
In most cases, if you develop dry socket, your dentist will place a medicated dressing into the socket to soothe the pain and encourage healing. The dressing is replaced every 24 hours until the symptoms of dry socket lessen (about five to seven days).