How is dry tooth socket treated?

Peggy Rosen
Treatment for dry socket:
  • The dentist will gently irrigate the socket followed by superficial curettage of the debris inside the socket.
  • Pack the socket with a dressing that contains sedative and antiseptic substance to enhance healing and lessen the pain. The dressing will also help prevent food debris to accumulate in the socket, protect the exposed bone.
  • If there is clinical signs of infection, such as fever, suppuration, the dentist may prescribe antibiotics.
  • Return to the dentist; if the pain persist after 48 hours.
Todd A. Welch, DMD
After wisdom tooth extraction, a blood clot normally forms in the hole left in the gum, protecting the exposed nerves during the healing process. If the clot is dislodged, a painful condition known as "dry socket" results.

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 medication or give you a nerve block.

Your dentist will clean the tooth socket, removing any debris from the hole, and then fill the socket with a medicated piece of gauze or a special paste to promote healing. You'll probably have to come back to the dentist's office every day for a dressing change until the socket starts to heal and your pain lessens.

Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to prevent the socket from becoming infected. To care for the dry socket at home, your dentist may recommend that you rinse with salt water or a special mouthwash every day.

Your dentist will wait until the dry socket has healed -- which can take up to two weeks -- before placing dental implants.

What can I do to prevent dry socket

Because smoking is a big risk factor for dry socket, avoid cigarettes, cigars, and any other tobacco products for a day or so before your surgery. If you take birth control pills, ask your dentist about performing the extraction on a day when you are getting the lowest dose of estrogen because the hormone can affect the ability of the blood to clot. Also, check with your dentist about other medications you are taking that can interfere with normal blood clotting.

After your surgery, avoid drinking through a straw and spitting for the first few days. Also don't rinse your mouth more than your dentist recommends. If you do rinse -- do so gently. Be sure to visit your dentist for all scheduled follow-up visits.
Dry socket (alveolar osteitis) is a condition that sometimes occurs after a tooth is extracted. When the extraction site is slow to heal, the condition can be very painful for approximately three to five days.

The dentist's treatment may include cleaning the extraction site and placing a medicated dressing in the socket, which helps provide relief of pain. The dentist may change the dressing a few times until the pain diminishes and the socket begins to heal properly. The dentist may also recommend a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, or prescribe other pain relievers if needed.
A dry socket occurs when the socket is slow to heal after an extraction. Listen as Dr. Maria Howell Lopez explains how to treat your mouth if you develop a dry socket.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.