Dry Socket Overview (cont.)

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What are dry socket symptoms and signs?

A tell-tale sign of dry socket is when there is partial or total loss of a blood clot. The jawbone may be visible in the socket as a white area where it would normally be covered with a blood clot or healing membrane. Dry socket is not associated with an infection and, therefore, not accompanied with fever, swelling, or redness.

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. A foul smell and an unpleasant taste in the mouth may also be present due to the accumulation of food debris and bacteria in the socket. A stiff jaw is not a typical symptom of dry socket but is often a coincidental symptom after an oral surgery procedure such as tooth extraction.

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 two to four days after a tooth extraction. Most dry sockets happen within the first week after 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 with pain-relieving properties, including eugenol (clove oil).

Additionally, medications can be prescribed to manage the pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as Advil or Aleve) or narcotics (such as hydrocodone/acetaminophen [Vicodin]) are often used to relieve pain.

Are there home remedies for dry socket?

Home treatment or home remedies for a dry socket should mostly be limited to over-the-counter pain medications for pain management. If timely treatment with a dentist is not possible, the placement of a cotton or gauze packing with a few drops of clove oil placed into the socket may assist in temporary pain relief. The packing may be replaced after 24 hours as needed. A follow-up visit with the dentist or oral surgeon is strongly recommended to properly evaluate and treat the affected areas and avoid complications. Delaying a follow-up visit with a health-care professional could prolong the pain as well as the healing time.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/21/2015

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