Dry socket, technically called as alveolar osteitis, is one which occurs as a complication of improper wound healing after extraction of an adult tooth. It is the most common complication of tooth extraction, but it occurs only in 2-5% of cases.
Normally, after a tooth extraction a blood clot forms in the gap or socket where the tooth has been removed. This blood clot controls the bleeding and it also acts as scaffolding for new tissue to be laid in the wound. Sometimes the blood clot is not formed or improperly formed and gets dislodged easily.
It can also get dislodged due to factors like vigorous spitting or rinsing, excessive coughing, sucking with a straw and even smoking. The blood clot can also be dissolved when you drink hot tea or coffee or consume hot soup. Here are some ways you can diagnose a dry socket.
Ways To Diagnose Dry Socket
Presence Of Pain
Pain is the most common symptom of a dry socket. However, pain is only to be expected following a tooth extraction. Normally, the pain starts to diminish after the first day and eases off gently over the course of a few days. Any considerable pain that is new or worsening beyond a few days should alert you to the possibility of dry socket. The pain of dry socket would radiate from socket to eye, ear, neck, temple or the half of the face on the side of extraction.
Visual Inspection of Site of Tooth Extraction
Look in the mirror and inspect the site of tooth extraction. Normally, if blood clot is present, you should see darkish red filmy substance on the site of extraction. In case of dry socket you will see an empty and dry opening with bone exposed underneath.
Inspecting With A Dental Mirror
If looking in an ordinary mirror does not enable you to inspect the site of extraction, then use a dental mirror. It can be obtained in any medical or grocery store. Use of a pick to probe the area is not advisable because it may easily dislodge a blood clot that may be present.
Presence Of Other Symptoms
In addition to the type of pain described above, you may have other accompanying symptoms in case of dry socket. Such symptoms include bad smell, bad or foul breath, bad or unpleasant taste in the mouth, and spasm of jaw muscles.
In the presence of considerable pain, such symptoms are strong corroborative evidence of dry socket, and you should consult your dentist or oral surgeon immediately. The bad breath and taste are indicative of infection of the site from which the tooth has been extracted.
Presence Of Risk Factors
There are several risk factors for the development of dry socket. Presence of any one of them increases the likelihood of the presence of dry socket when some of the above symptoms are present. Risk factors include smoking and use of tobacco, use of oral contraceptives, improper following of postoperative advice of the dentist, past history of dry socket and any infection, now or in the past, around the tooth that has been extracted.
If it turns out that you have dry socket, there is no need to be worried because it is a self-limiting condition that responds well to treatment. You may be prescribed analgesics (painkillers) and antibiotics. A local sedative dressing may be applied to the affected area after gentle rinsing. Sometimes you may need a dental implant. You can prevent dry socket from occurring by avoiding the risk factors.