Having a tooth pulled is not a particularly enjoyable experience. And you no doubt expect to have some discomfort afterward. But that's OK, you say. You can endure it when you need to. But if the pain becomes intense and doesn't go away after a few days, it may be a symptom of a condition called dry socket, or alveolar osteitis.
Only a very small percentage -- about 2% to 5% of people -- developdry socket after a tooth extraction. In those who have it, though, dry socket can be uncomfortable. Fortunately, it's easily treatable.
The socket is the hole in the bone where the tooth has been removed. After a tooth is pulled, a blood clot forms in the socket to protect the bone and nerves underneath. Sometimes that clot can become dislodged or dissolve a couple of days after the extraction. That leaves the bone and nerve exposed to air, food, fluid, and anything else that enters the mouth. This can lead to infection and severe pain that can last for 5 or 6 days.
Who Is Likely to Get Dry Socket?Some people may be more likely to get dry socket after having atooth pulled. That includes people who:
What Are the Symptoms of Dry Socket?If you look into the site where the tooth was pulled, you'll probably see a dry-looking opening. Instead of a dark blood clot, there will just be whitish bone. The pain typically starts about 2 days after the tooth was pulled. Over time it becomes more severe and can radiate to your ear.
Other symptoms of dry socket include bad breath and an unpleasant smell and taste in your mouth.
How Is Dry Socket Treated?You can take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such asaspirin or ibuprofen, to ease the discomfort. Sometimes these over-the-counter medications aren't enough to relieve the pain. When that's the case, your doctor may prescribe a stronger drug or will anesthetize the area.
Dr. James L. Johnson