Your dentist may refer to this dental issue as alveolar osteitis, but many people simply refer to it as dry socket. This dental condition can occur after dental procedures that leave a wound such as a tooth extraction. While it doesn't happen to everyone, dental patients about to undergo an extraction should know about dry sockets and how to take action.
What Happens with a Dry Socket
Protective blood clots are best left in place after an extraction. They keep the wound from encountering bacteria that could cause an infection in the gums. After an extraction, the underlying nerves and bone tissue should be kept covered by the blood clot while the surgical site heals. However, sometimes, the blood clot fails to heal, or it becomes loosened through eating, drinking, or other reasons. You can consider this blood clot to be nature's bandage for the gums.
What Causes Dry Sockets?
Some people have a tendency for dry sockets, but other risk factors are using a straw to drink, smoking, or eating chewy foods. Never rinse your mouth vigorously after a tooth extraction and follow your dentist's orders regarding care of the socket.
What to Watch Out For
If you have had an extraction, your dentist will probably warn you about the possibility of a dry socket. In most cases, you will experience a good amount of pain once your extraction area is no longer protected by a blood clot. You may expect pain around the extraction area, but a dry socket might also cause pain in your jaw, face, and even your ear. Many report a bad taste in the mouth as well. Unfortunately, that bad taste could mean that the extraction site is infected. Along with those unpleasant symptoms, you might also experience fever, tiredness, and general flu-like symptoms.
Call Your Dentist
At the first sign of any of the above, phone your dentist right away. If your dental office is not open, go to urgent care or the emergency room. It's important to get antibiotics immediately or the infection could get much worse.
You can expect your dentist to gently clean the socket of any debris and they might pack it with gauze as well. The gauze, which is sometimes saturated with medication for the wound, must be changed every few hours. Your dentist will also likely advise you to take over-the-counter pain relievers. Follow your dentist's instructions and your extraction site should heal properly in time. For more information, contact your family dentist.