Treating dry sockets.

The most effective treatment for a dry socket comes from your dentist. That's because they'll provide care that's focused on two fronts: Creating pain relief and providing support and reassurance.

Never be hesitant to ask your dentist for help. As the initial provider of your care (your tooth extraction), they are obligated to provide you with the follow-up assistance you require.

Related page.

Can you treat a dry socket on your own?

Assuming that a person has correctly diagnosed their condition, there are steps they can take that can be helpful. But this approach won't be as comprehensive as the level of care their dentist can provide. Use the link to the right for more information.

How does a dentist treat a dry socket?

a) The initial evaluation.

As a start, your dentist will first need establish that it's likely that you do indeed have a dry socket.

They'll need to quiz you about the nature of your symptoms and inspect your wound.

They'll also want to know about the timing of events. In most cases, post-extraction healing progresses normally for some days before the symptoms of a dry socket start to set in.

A medicated paste is placed directly into the dry socket.

b) Placement of a medicated dressing.

Once your dentist determines that it seems likely that you do have a dry socket, they'll typically take the following steps.

  • First, they'll gently flush out your extraction site. (They want to wash away any loose debris that might inhibit the healing process or possibly create a secondary bacterial infection.)
  • They'll then smear medicated paste onto a piece of gauze (or other type of carrier) and place it directly into your tooth's socket. (In most cases, this step is performed quickly, no anesthetic is used.)
  • This dressing is typically changed every 24 to 48 hours, for 3 to 6 days. However, the exact frequency and duration is simply dictated by the patient's comfort requirements.

A patient may experience dramatic pain relief, even within the hour, once the dry socket dressing has been placed.

What ingredients do dry-socket pastes contain?

The specific medication that a dentist places will vary, based on their previous experience with different products.

These pastes often contain: Eugenol (extract of clove oil, an analgesic), benzocaine (an anesthetic) and iodophorm (an antimicrobial).

c) Your dentist may write you a prescription for pain pills.

Depending on your needs, your dentist may also write you a prescription for an analgesic (pain pills), or explain the use of a non-prescription (over-the-counter) alternative.

Analgesics are seldom effective in controlling the pain from a dry-socket on their own. They are typically only used in conjunction with the placement of a medicated paste (as described above).

d) Taking antibiotics is not usually indicated.

Dry socket formation involves a scenario where an extraction site's healing process has been interrupted due to the loss of its blood clot. An active bacterial infection is typically not involved. For this reason, the use of antibiotics is not usually indicated.

Your dentist may identify a reason (such as a secondary bacterial infection) why antibiotics should play a role in your treatment. But on a routine basis, they are not prescribed. (The over use of antibiotics by practitioners helps to lead to the development of bacterial resistance to them.)

Treatment for dry sockets is just palliative, not a cure.

As explained previously on our pages, a dry socket involves a situation where an extraction site's healing process has been delayed. Over time, the wound can still be expected to go ahead and heal on its own. It's just that it will take longer, and be more painful, than it would have been otherwise.

Treatment doesn't speed things up (although your dentist's attention may help to create a more predictable healing environment). Instead, it simply helps to reduce the amount of discomfort that you experience while your (now prolonged) healing process takes place.

Related content: How long do dry sockets last?

If you think you have a dry socket, don't hesitate to ask for your dentist's help.

All dentists know that there's always a chance that any patient will develop a dry socket after their extraction. And although there are risk factors that can influence their rate of incidence, actually experiencing one can often simply be considered to be bad luck.

For this reason, once you've asked, you'll probably find that your dentist is quite sympathetic to your situation and very accommodating in providing treatment. They fully expect that some percentage of their patients will require their assistance and understand that it's their obligation to assist in providing whatever follow-up care is needed.

 All FYI's ► 

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