The precise cause of dry socket remains the subject of study. Researchers suspect that certain issues may be involved such as bacterial contamination of the socket or, a trauma at the surgical site from a difficult extraction.
The most common factor that can increase the risk of developing a dry socket is smoking or a history of smoking within 72 hours of surgery. Post-operative instructions clearly state that smoking is not allowed in the first three days after surgery. However, some patients are not able to withdraw that quickly from smoking. The toxins present in tobacco interfere with the healing process.
There is also recent evidence that oral contraceptives may increase the chances of developing a dry socket, so patients should be aware of that prior to the surgery,
Painful, dry socket rarely results in infection or serious complications. However, potential complications may include delayed healing of or infection in the socket or progression to chronic bone infection (osteomyelitis).
To help prevent dry socket you can take these steps:
- Seek a dentist or oral surgeon with experience in tooth extractions.
- If applicable, try to stop smoking before your extraction because smoking and using other tobacco products increase your risk of dry socket. Consider talking to your doctor or dentist about a program to help you quit permanently.
- Talk to your dentist or oral surgeon about any prescription or over-the-counter medications or supplements you’re taking, as they may interfere with blood clotting.
- Respect your post extraction advice given by your dentist.
How to deal with a dry socket?
Typically, your dentist will rinse out the empty socket, remove any debris and sometimes a dressing is placed in the socket with a special paste designed to help heal the socket and eliminate pain. The dentist can advise you what to eat or drink as well as how to clean and care for the dry socket area. With proper care and rest, the dry socket should heal in seven to 10 days. Your dentist will probably ask that you schedule a follow up appointment to monitor healing and to see how you are doing.
The symptoms can disappear within 24 hours of treatment, but some patients require daily appointments for an application of a new dressing until the symptoms disappear. If the patient is able to take medication, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication is prescribed to help with the discomfort.