Dry Sockets

Dry Sockets

The clinical term is alveolar osteitis. It simply represents the loss of most of the clot within the socket. This “hole’ can catch food or bacteria and since the bone is not well protected, it can be very painful. The classic symptom is of ear pain on the same-side as the involved lower tooth. A dry socket generally takes 3-5 days to develop. It cannot be “cured” but can be treated. Healing occurs from the “bottom up and the sides in”, and the hole will usually fill in within 4-6 weeks. ( Yes, it can delay healing for a long time! ). This socket must be kept very clean with warm water rinses to keep any food from being trapped and leading to an infection.

Treatments consist of rinsing the socket free from food and packing medicated gauze into the hole. This medication numbs the socket from the inside and is strictly a treatment for pain. It does not help healing and is often not needed if pain can be controlled with oral medications. Many dry sockets are not painful! If packings are required they are only usually needed twice in one week.

Since dry sockets catch debris which can lead to future infections, patients are often given a irrigating device/syringe ( to be used like a squirt gun ). These are difficult to use for some patients and usually are not more effective than vigorously rinsing/flushing the socket with warm water after finishing eating any food. Sometimes an antibacterial mouth wash ( perioguard ) will also be prescribed. An infection will occur if food is allowed to remain in the socket.

Dry sockets cannot be prevented. They are believed to be a limited form of infection in the clot. They are more common with females, lower teeth, birth control pills, menstrual cycles and especially smoking. Rinsing with hydrogen peroxide during the first week of healing is also not a good idea.

We are sorry if you have developed this delayed healing problem. We will do whatever we can to relieve any discomfort, speed recovery and prevent any future related problems.

Michael L. Rowe D.D.S.