A dry socket occurs when a patient doesn’t form or loses a blood clot after a tooth is removed. Removing teeth is a delicate operation that requires skill and care to avoid breaking pieces of bone surrounding the tooth. Experienced dental clinicians can usually remove teeth with little difficulty. Occasionally, teeth are very difficult to remove and require significant cutting of bone and soft tissue as well as more time involvement than needed for a routine extraction.
Typically, in the case of a difficult tooth extraction, the practitioner will place a material (collagen) into the surgical site, which is similar to human soft tissue, to assist a blood clot to form in the location where the tooth was removed. Additionally, sutures (stitches) are usually placed to further assist in the formation of a blood clot. In spite of these best efforts, sometimes a clot does not form and the bone is exposed to oral fluids, food, and drinks. The result is a dull ache that is quite painful and distressing.
Pain medications may help alleviate the pain, but healing of the surgical site must be complete to eliminate the pain. In the unlikely event of a dry socket, we will place some medication and packing in the surgical site to relieve the pain and speed the healing.
To avoid a dry socket, do not eat or drink very hot or cold foods. Avoid creating a suction on the site such as using a straw, smoking, vigorous rinsing, or spitting while healing. Also, try to avoid getting food debris into the healing site. A blood clot can take 4-5 days before it is firmly attached to the surrounding tissue and healing proceeds without incident.