Dry socket, medically known as alveolar osteitis, is a dental condition that strikes after the extraction of an adult tooth, usually three or four days later. The blood clot that normally forms after removing the tooth either dissolves or becomes dislodged before the wound has a chance to heal properly. This leaves the underlying nerves and bone exposed, making it a very painful experience.
As it involves adult teeth, the condition is not seen in children. Neither does it often occur in younger teenagers. The chances of experiencing a dry socket is quite low, less than 5%, and they are found more often in the lower jaw than the upper jaw. It takes about a week for it to heal enough that the exposed bone and nerves are again covered, and the pain will gradually taper off during that time frame.
The main symptom of dry socket is severe pain in the area where the tooth was removed. This pain sets in suddenly after the initial discomfort of the tooth extraction begins to fade away.
Dry socket is treated mostly through the use of pain relievers while the area heals over. Over-the-counter NSAIDs and analgesics assist in reducing inflammation, swelling, and pain. Topical antiseptics help minimize the chances of infection, and prescription antibiotics can be given to patients to prevent bacterial growth. Home remedies can that can also help include a cold compress, salt water rinse, and clove oil.
Avoiding tobacco and alcohol products will reduce the risk of developing dry socket after oral surgery.