Dry Socket Overview (cont.)

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What are the signs and symptoms of a dry socket?

A tell-tale sign is a socket that has a partial or total loss of a blood clot. The jawbone may be visible in the socket.

Symptoms of a dry socket include a throbbing steady pain that presents a few days after a tooth extraction. The pain may radiate to other parts of the head such as the ears and eyes on the same side of the face. Oral malodor and an unpleasant taste may also be present due to the accumulation of food debris and bacteria in the socket.

How is a dry socket diagnosed?

Diagnosis of a dry socket is based on history of dental treatment, clinical examination, and the individual's symptoms. Timing of when symptoms begin may be an indicator for a dry socket. During normal healing, the discomfort of an extraction should lessen over time. However, if the pain increases, this is an indication that healing is delayed and could possibly be due to a dry socket. Typically, symptoms for a dry socket develop 2 to 4 days after a tooth extraction.

What is the treatment for a dry socket?

Treatment usually involves symptomatic support while the socket heals. Initially, the dentist will gently irrigate to clear the socket of food debris. Next, an analgesic medicated dressing is placed within the socket to cover the exposed bone. This usually provides immediate relief. This dressing may need to be replaced every few days during the healing process. The dressing is often coated with "dry socket paste" which is made up of ingredients pain-relieving properties.

Additionally, medications are usually prescribed to manage the pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as Advil or Aleve) or narcotics (such as Vicodin) are often used to relieve pain.

Home treatment or home remedies for a dry socket should be limited to over-the-counter pain medications for pain management. Delaying a follow-up visit with the dentist or surgeon could prolong the pain as well as the healing time.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/26/2015

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