An average dentist Sydney CBD sees a lot of patients for help with tooth extractions. And one of the most common complications associated with an extraction is dry socket. But what is a dry socket and how can you avoid it?
Thankfully, dental complications are very rare and increasingly becoming rarer but the most common of these unlikely complications is dry socket and to some degree, it affects only 2% of all patients who have had an extraction. Not only because of how uncomfortable it can be but also due to its long recovery time. As many dental teams strongly adhere to the philosophy that prevention is better than cure, your dental team should always explain post extraction what the early symptoms of dry socket are and how to avoid a full-blown case if you have a dry socket forming.
Once a tooth has been clearly extracted, the surrounding gums become inflamed and in a normal progression would begin to close. This should start from the bottom, nearest the jawbone and extend up eventually leaving the gum with no apparent socket at all. If this process gets disrupted, it can lead to a continually exposed jawbone. This usually happens when the initial blood clot that forms at the base of the socket has become disrupted. One of the reasons why dry socket was so common in the past was because of obsessive cleaning of the socket after an extraction that was carried out by poorly informed patients who were doing their best to avoid getting an infection. The result is that the sides of the socket heal leaving a direct channel from the top of the gum down into an exposed patch of jawbone. The nerves of the jawbone are extremely sensitive to changes in temperature and cold air and liquids coming in contact with the jawbone are extremely uncomfortable.
Once a dry socket has formed, it will not easily close of its own accord. Risks of dry socket formation increase with molars and wisdom teeth hence in the clinic (if your team is extracting wisdom teeth), they would normally stitch the gum in order to preemptively close the socket and ensure that any blood clot that is forming will not be disturbed.
It is the initial 24-hours post extraction which is most critical in determining whether a dry socket will form. It is very important to brush extremely lightly if at all near the fresh extraction and avoid the use of mouthwashes or any aggressive rinsing of the mouth that could easily disrupt a forming blood clot.
There does seem to be a strong genetic link between developing dry sockets and having a history of them in your family. But if you have had family members who have experienced dry sockets in the past please inform your dental practitioner and additional steps can be made to reduce the chances. This could include packing any exposed sockets or stitching closed the gums in order to reduce the chances of them occurring.
If you have had an extraction and are continuing to get pain at the extraction site for more than 10 days this is a sign of early dry socket and you should get in contact with your local dental team for an emergency appointment.
Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.