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Dry Socket – Houston, Texas

Prevention & Pain Relief Tips for Healing After Oral Surgery

Woman with toothache

At Piney Point Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, our oral surgeon in Houston delivers a range of surgical treatments, including traditional tooth extractions and wisdom tooth removal. After we complete your tooth extraction surgery, the oral surgeon will provide you with thorough aftercare instructions to ensure you make a complete recovery, complications from tooth extraction can occur. If you experience pain or discomfort following tooth extraction, the odds are good that the culprit is dry socket. This common, painful condition occurs when the blood clot that should protect the extraction site either doesn’t develop or is dislodged. While dry socket can be painful and lead to a lengthier healing time, our team can provide the help you need to relieve the pain and jump start the healing process once more. On this page, we’ll review the common risks for and causes of dry socket and how we can help you when it happens. If you have concerns, or experience pain, contact us today. We’re here to help.

What Is Dry Socket?

Wisdom tooth x-ray

Technically known as alveolar osteitis, dry socket is a common complication of tooth extraction surgeries. While any tooth extraction can lead to dry socket, it is most common in lower jaw wisdom tooth extractions. After a tooth is removed, the surgical area should form a blood clot as the tooth extraction site heals. When the clot is disturbed, lost, or does not form, this can significantly impede the healing process and cause severe pain. When a clot is in place, the nerve and bone below the gum line are protected, but without the clot, the exposed nerve will be painful. Every person has a unique experience, and pain can range from mild discomfort to severe pain. While the pain associated with dry socket is serious for many patients, the more significant concern from a medical standpoint may be the delay in healing. The blood clot brings the necessary nutrients to the extraction site to promote healing. If the blood clot never forms or is dislodge early in the healing process, we will likely recommend placement of a dressing that mimics the lost blood clot, promotes faster healing, and relieves discomfort.

Causes & Risk Factors for Dry Socket

Woman with jaw pain

We are still not sure exactly why some people develop dry socket after tooth extraction. However, some of the risk factors for developing dry socket include:

  • Any type of tobacco use: smoking, chewing tobacco, etc.
  • Taking oral contraceptives or receiving estrogen therapy
  • Poor aftercare
  • Insufficient oral hygiene
  • Infection of the gums (periodontal disease) or supportive bone surrounding the extraction site
  • Having had a dry socket in the past
  • Not seeking treatment for swelling or serious inflammation of the face after tooth extraction

Some of the common causes of dry socket include:

  • Not treating or preventing gum disease before and after tooth extraction
  • Using a straw, rinsing, spitting, or smoking a cigarette too soon after the extraction 
  • An untreated infection with low-grade fever or swollen glands prior to or after surgery

Signs & Symptoms of Dry Socket

Man in dental chair

In most cases, dry socket develops two to four days after the tooth extraction, and the first symptom is usually pain. Pay attention to these indicators that let you know that the healing process has been disrupted, including:

  • After the blood clot is disrupted, the underlying bone and nerve tissue are exposed, which causes moderate to severe pain and temperature sensitivity. Some pain is normal, but severe pain or discomfort that lingers or increases after the first few days can indicate dry socket.
  • Sometimes the jawbone can be seen with the naked eye after dry socket forms. Even if you can’t see the supportive bone structure, you will likely see an opening in the soft tissue.
  • Patients may also note bad breath with a foul smell concentrated in the surgical area. A bad taste in the mouth may also occur.
  • In some cases, severe facial swelling may also occur.

Preventing Dry Socket

Whenever possible, we want to help our patients prevent dry socket from happening. Following your oral surgeon’s advice is crucial. You can reduce your risk of developing dry socket following your oral surgery in Houston if you:

  • Avoid straws. The suction can disturb the blood clot.
  • Do not smoke or use tobacco. If you inhale smoke too quickly, the air movement can dislodge the blood clot. The chemicals in tobacco products may also slow down healing.
  • Eat soft food. For at least a day after your surgery, you should stick to eating soft foods, like soup, yogurt, and applesauce.
  • Follow your surgeon’s instructions for oral hygiene. You may have to wait a day or so before you resume brushing your teeth. When you do start brushing, be extremely careful around the extraction site.
  • Dry socket is a serious and painful condition. If you suspect you have it, contact your dentist or oral surgeon right away, so you can receive treatment and get back on the road to a healthy smile.

As long as you follow this advice, you should enjoy a speedy recovery after tooth extraction — without dry socket. However, if you or your child do experience pain that you think is caused by this uncomfortable condition, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your oral surgeons in Houston! Seeking treatment right away is important for your prompt healing.

Treatment for Dry Socket

If you’re not able to prevent dry socket, don’t expect it to go away on its own. You should contact your oral surgeon in Houston and allow us to take a look. Standard treatment for dry socket involves washing out the socket with a saline solution that removes food particles and bacteria buildup. Then, we place a special dressing (which will need to be replaced after a few days) to protect the socket and soothe the pain in the affected area. Pain medications might also be prescribed. We might also provide a medicated mouth rinse that you should use for several days to keep bacteria from the area and promote faster healing. You should also take care to keep up with your follow up appointments. If you diligently follow your surgeon’s orders, you can expect to recover from dry socket in about 7 – 10 days.