Dentists and their patients try to avoid removing a tooth whenever possible. Unfortunately, removal may be in order as part of a long-term plan to improve a patient's dental health. When extractions do happen, there are usually no complications. One thing that can happen to some people after a tooth has been extracted is a dry socket. Read on to find out what a dry socket is and what to do about it.
Care After an Extraction
Whether your tooth was removed because of decay or to make room for restorative work like a dental implant, you should follow your dentist's instructions for the care of it afterward. Most of the time, the gum area will be sore and sensitive to extreme temperatures and may hurt when you eat. Over-the-counter pain medications such as Aleve are great at relieving pain and inflammation. In most cases, an extraction is just the beginning of a plan to restore your mouth to full health. Your dentist will have explained to you the importance of filling in that missing spot with a bridge or implant. Before that happens, though, the site of the extraction must be fully healed.
What is Dry Socket?
Once your extraction area stops bleeding, a blood clot will form inside the space where the tooth and root were. In most cases, the blood clot will remain in place for a few days and protect the empty socket. In some cases, however, that does not happen. When the blood clot is washed away with water or saliva, you will have a dry socket. The smaller the tooth that was extracted, the less likely it is that a dry socket will occur. With larger molars (and wisdom teeth), the opening left can be considerable, however. Once the blood clot is gone, it can open the door for bacteria and infection to enter the gums, and that can be very serious.
What to Do With a Dry Socket
Call a dentist and let them know that you suspect you have dry socket right away. You might not notice the loss of the blood clot, but the pain is a good indicator. They will likely see you as soon as possible so that some protection can be set up for the vulnerable gum area. Your dentist may treat you for infection even if no signs are present yet. The area will be gently cleansed with either saline or an antibacterial cleanser. The dry socket is then packed with gauze soaked in more antibacterial solution. The gauze packing will need to be changed periodically. Finally, a prescription for antibiotics will be provided. Be sure you take all of them in the bottle.
In most cases, dry sockets heal with no complications after the preventive measures are put in place. Talk to your family dental care provider to find out more.