Alveolar osteitis, which is commonly referred to as a dry socket, is a dental problem that is characterized by the inflammation of the jawbone (or alveolar bone). It develops after a tooth extraction. Basically, when a tooth is extracted, it leaves behind an empty socket. This is followed by the formation of a blood clot at the site of tooth extraction. This blood clot protects the underlying bone and nerve endings in the empty tooth socket. The formation of this blood clot is essential for speeding up the healing process. Problems arise when the blood clot doesn't form, or gets dissolved or dislodged, which in turn exposes the socket to air, food, and fluids. This can delay the healing process, and give rise to a dry socket.
Risk Factors and Symptoms
The risk of developing this condition increases in case of individuals who smoke cigarettes and chew tobacco. Also, the use of corticosteroids or oral contraceptives can put one at an increased risk. Increased trauma to the bone and tissue due to a difficult tooth extraction, history of dry socket, tooth and gum infections, etc., are other risk factors. Individuals affected by this condition are likely to experience moderate to severe throbbing pain 2-3 days after extraction, bad breath, or bad taste in the mouth. Due to the partial or complete loss of the blood clot, the bone will be visible at the site of tooth extraction. Also, the pain might also radiate to the ear, eye, temple, and neck on the affected side.
Precautionary Measures and Remedies for Dry Socket
It is essential to go for follow-up visits to avoid complications associated with tooth extraction. The dentist would flush the socket to get rid of food debris or particles lodged in the socket. This will lower the risk of an infection. Also, a medicated dressing would be placed within the socket to cover the exposed bone. If pain persists, analgesics or NSAIDs would be prescribed for reducing pain and inflammation. It's advisable to take the analgesic or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in the dosage recommended by your doctor. It must be noted that the dressing would have to be replaced. Make sure that you don't delay follow-up visits with the dentist or surgeon. Following certain self-care measures would also help speed up the recovery process. These include:
➻ Applying an ice pack on the affected side would help in reducing swelling. It will also provide relief from pain.
➻ You can also place a cold tea bag on the affected tooth. The tannic acid present in tea would help provide relief.
➻ Before you go to the dentist, make sure that you squirt salt water into the socket. This will help remove the debris.
➻ Gargle with warm salt water, or rinse your mouth with warm salt water several times in a day.
➻ Clove oil can also be used for dry socket treatment. All you need to do is dab a cotton ball in clove oil, and apply it over the dry socket. Clove oil is often used for toothaches due to its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.
➻ Turmeric is antiseptic in nature. You can either gargle with a solution made by adding turmeric in warm water, or apply a damp cotton ball soaked in turmeric powder over the affected area. Massaging the gums with a pinch of turmeric powder and common salt would also lower the risk of infections.
➻ Make sure that you drink plenty of water. However, don't drink water or other fluids using a straw.
➻ Avoid smoking or chewing tobacco.
➻ Be very gentle while brushing your teeth, especially around the site of tooth extraction.
➻ Don't touch the affected area or the site of tooth extraction with your fingers or tongue.
On a concluding note, follow all the instructions on aftercare given by the dentist. Make sure that food particles or debris don't get lodged in the empty socket, as that could lead to an infection. If you experience the symptoms associated with a dry socket, consult your dentist at the earliest.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.