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Most people don’t experience complications after they’ve had their wisdom tooth or another tooth pulled. However, if they do have complications, dry sockets are the most common even though they’re not common at all. Only 2 to 5 percent of people who have a tooth pulled develop them.

What is Dry Socket?

Also called alveolar osteitis, dry socket is is technically the hole in your jaw bone where the tooth used to be. It is dry because the blood clot that forms to protect the surgical wound that occurred when the tooth was pulled either fell out or went away sooner than it should have. Because of this, the bone tissue and the nerves are exposed to anything that comes into your mouth. This not only causes terrible pain but puts the area at risk for infection, since nothing is blocking the entrance of bacteria or other pathogens.

Though alveolar osteitis is uncommon, there are some people who are more at risk for getting it. These are people who do not tend to their oral hygiene the way they should and people who smoke. Other people more at risk for dry sockets have had an unusually difficult tooth extraction surgery or have had their wisdom teeth extracted. Being on birth control pills also makes alveolar osteitis more likely, as is having a history of dry sockets after your teeth have been pulled.

The risk of alveolar osteitis is also a reason your dentist will tell you not to drink through a straw right after you’ve had your tooth pulled. You should also keep rinsing and spitting to a minimum in the days after a tooth extraction.

Finding alveolar osteitis is easy. Open your mouth, and check the place where your tooth was pulled. Instead of seeing a blood clot, you might see bare bone. Soon after, the pain will start, get worse over time and radiate out to your ear. Other symptoms are an unpleasant taste in the mouth and bad breath.

Why Does Dry Socket Happen?

Dry socket seems to happen because something is preventing the blood from clotting. This is why people who smoke are at risk for the condition. Smoking, among other bad things, prevents blood from clotting normally. The birth control pill can also act as an anticoagulant. If you drink through a straw or rinse your mouth out too much, you can simply dislodge the clot.

What You Should Do If You Get It

If you see that you have alveolar osteitis, you should call your dentist. It is alright to use a NSAID to ease the pain, though sometimes the pain can’t be eased by an over-the-counter pain killer. Your dentist may have to give you a stronger drug to keep you comfortable until the alveolar osteitis is corrected.

When you return to the dentist office, they’ll clean out the socket then fill it with a medicated paste to help it heal. If the dentist hasn’t already prescribed antibiotics, they may prescribe some now to make sure that the socket doesn’t become infected. The dentist will probably tell you to rinse your mouth out with a prescription mouthwash or warm salt water while you’re at home. You’ll probably need to visit the office a few times so the dressing can be refreshed.

Call Us If You Have an Alveolar Osteitis

If you live in the Phoenix and Gilbert area and you’ve noticed that the blood clot from a tooth extraction has fallen out or looks loose, call us at Dental Specialty Associates right away. Dry sockets are easy to fix, and repairing them swiftly prevents even more pain and complications. Call right now at (480) 633-9977 in Gilbert and (602) 795-5995 in Phoenix.