Home-remedy treatments for dry sockets. -

How to place a clove oil (eugenol) dressing. / Using honey to treat dry sockets. / When self-treatment makes sense. / About the use of OTC medications for pain relief.

How to treat a dry socket at home.

Topic Alveolar Osteitis logo.

X-ray of extraction site.

This page discusses various methods you can use on your own to treat a dry socket. They include:

  • The use of oil of cloves (dentists and pharmacists refer to this compound as eugenol).
  • Using honey (like that you eat) as a cure.
  • We also discuss the place of using OTC analgesics (over-the-counter pain medications) in providing relief from dry socket discomfort.
 

When does self-treatment make a reasonable plan?

As we explain below, self-treating a dry socket only makes sense as a first-aid, last-resort type of solution. The kind of step you take when other, more suitable options don't exist.

The most comprehensive and effective treatment can only be provided by a dentist. And it's the obligation of the dentist who extracted your tooth to provide you with whatever post-operative care you require.


Methods of treating a dry socket on your own.

Note: These self remedies can't fully duplicate the level of care that a dentist can provide (see discussion below). They should only be considered to be first aid treatment and appropriate for situations where the attention of a dental professional is not possible.

a) Eugenol (clove oil) dressings.

Background.

When a dentist treats a dry socket, they place a medicated dressing directly into their patient's extraction site.

And while there are a number of different types of dressings that might be used, a common denominator among them is that they frequently contain the ingredient eugenol.

What is Eugenol?

Eugenol is an oily liquid that's also referred to as "oil of cloves." It creates the smell that you typically associate with a dental office. (Not just because your dentist treats a lot of dry sockets. It's used for other dental purposes too.)

It can be purchased on an over-the-counter basis (without a prescription). Ask your pharmacist about suitable products and availability.

How to treat a dry socket using clove oil (eugenol).

The Eugenol dressing is placed in the tooth's socket.

The eugenol dressing is placed in the opening of the tooth's socket.

  1. The tooth's socket should first be cleansed by rinsing it very gently with water or saline solution.

    The idea is that the liquid should gently lift and carry away whatever loose debris is present. Spit out the liquid when finished.

  2. Create a dressing by placing 2 drops of eugenol (oil of cloves) on a carrier (a piece of cotton or gauze that's been shaped into a 1/4 inch ball or cube).
  3. Using tweezers, briefly drag the carrier across a cloth to draw away excess eugenol. Then insert the dressing into the opening of the tooth's socket.
  4. The dressing is removed, discarded and then replaced with a fresh one (using this same set of instructions) every 24 hours until the dry socket's pain has subsided.

(Menon 2012, NWCG 2012) [page references]

Once the attention of a dentist or other healthcare provider becomes available, you should report to them what steps you have taken, cease performing further self-treatments and follow their instructions.

Precautions you should be aware of.

While the use of eugenol in the treatment of dry sockets is common and routine, it's possible for it to cause soft tissue irritation or damage, or possibly even bone necrosis. These side effects are typically associated with using it in high concentrations (large amounts) or for an extended period of time (weeks). (Jovanovic 2007, Navas 2010)

  • This is why the instructions above include the step of removing excess eugenol from the carrier before inserting it into the socket.
  • And why this technique should only be used as a last resort and just for those very few days until your dentist's services become available and they can take over your dry socket's management.

Additional things to know about treating dry sockets with eugenol.

  • In most cases the clove oil will begin to provide pain relief within the hour, possibly even within minutes.
  • You may still find it necessary to use an over-the-counter pain reliever for additional pain relief.

    Common choices are ibuprofen (Motrin®) or acetaminophen (Tylenol®). (Read your product's directions and stay within its guidelines.)

  • Another reason to make sure to go light with the amount/concentration of eugenol placed on the carrier is that if some of this liquid comes into contact (drips off, touches) other parts of your mouth (soft tissues, tongue) as the dressing is being inserted, it may sting or burn. You may also find it's taste unpleasant.

b) Treating dry sockets with honey.

Background.

Honey (the common foodstuff) isn't typically associated with having medicinal properties. In fact though, it has a long history of being used as a medicine over the ages. And in recent decades the medical community has begun to rediscover its potential in treating wounds.

Recent dental studies.

Ayub 2013

This paper evaluated the use of honey as an aid in extraction site healing. And while we realize that this topic is a different one from treating dry sockets per se, we are going to mention that this study concluded that:

  • While it's effect on hastening socket healing could not be definitively determined, no detrimental side effects were identified.
Singh 2014

This study specifically did evaluate the use of honey in treating dry sockets. The dressing used was sterile gauze soaked with honey, removed and replaced daily until the subject's pain symptoms had subsided.

The paper stated that this treatment resulted in:

  • A significant reduction of inflammation, hyperemia (increased blood flow to the region of the socket), edema (swelling) and exudation (fluid oozing from the wound) ...
  • ... and these reductions lead to the creation of a soothing effect and a reduction in the patient's level of pain and discomfort.

It should be stated that:

  • No comparison was made in regard to the effectiveness of honey vs. eugenol-based dressings.
  • No side effects of using honey were identified.

Except for the potential of an allergic reaction (which would also be a consideration for any other compound), the authors concluded that the use of honey could be considered a viable alternative in the management of dry sockets.

Should you use the honey method?

Cons

At this point in time it's easy enough to state that few dental professionals in the USA use honey as a dry socket dressing. The current standard seems to be that of using a eugenol (clove oil)-based one.

We'd have to assume that this choice is made due to its comparative effectiveness. However it may be that it's not used more simply because dentists are unaware of it or are waiting until it has been further evaluated.

Pros

The main advantages of using honey seem to be it's simplicity, availability and less potential for creating side effects.

How to treat a dry socket using honey.

The honey dressing is placed in the tooth's socket.

The honey dressing is placed in the opening of the tooth's socket.

  1. The tooth's socket should be cleansed by rinsing it very gently with water or saline solution.

    The idea is that the liquid should gently lift and carry away whatever loose debris is present. Spit out the liquid when finished.

  2. Create a carrier by shaping a piece of cotton or gauze into a 1/4 inch ball or cube. Using tweezers, saturate the carrier by dipping it into honey.
  3. Using tweezers, insert the dressing (the carrier saturated with honey) into the opening of the tooth's socket.
  4. The dressing is removed, discarded and then replaced with a fresh one (using this same set of instructions) every 24 hours until the dry socket's pain has subsided.

Once the attention of a dentist or other healthcare provider becomes available, you should report to them what steps you have taken, cease performing further self-treatments and follow their instructions.


c) Using over-the-counter pain medications to relieve dry socket pain.

In some instances, OTC analgesics (pain pills) alone may be able to control the discomfort caused by a dry socket.

  • Ibuprofen (Motrin®) or acetaminophen (Tylenol®) are frequently used for this purpose. (You'll need to read your product's directions and stay within its guidelines.)
  • For severe cases, you'll probably find that your level of pain is too overwhelming and they don't provide satisfactory relief. (Prescription analgesics, on their own, are typically ineffective too).
  • The most effective treatment involves placing a medicated dressing in your extraction site. And, as mentioned above, preferably by your dentist.

Note: Always keep in mind that pain pills are meant to be swallowed. Placing one on, or in the region of, your dry socket will not be effective and will result in extraction site irritation.


Why self-treatment for a dry socket doesn't make the best choice.

A home-remedy approach can't duplicate your dentist's care. Here's why:

  • As with any type of post-extraction complication, it's always best to have a dentist's evaluation.

    Drawing on their expertise they can determine what the most likely cause of your problem is and how it should be treated. (Just because you think you have a dry socket [alveolar osteitis] doesn't mean that you actually do.)

  • They'll have all of the tools and equipment needed to properly visualize your wound and perform your treatment as effectively and quickly as possible.

    For example, ineffectual cleansing of debris from the tooth socket could aid in the formation of a secondary infection. Failing to remove the gauze or cotton carrier as described above could do the same, or result in other complications.

  • The dressing that your dentist places will almost certainly contain a number of additional ingredients (anesthetic, antimicrobial agents, etc...) that, collectively, are more beneficial and effective than just a home remedy alone.

Times when self-treatment may make sense.

One situation where a dentist might recommend self-treatment is when it's used to supplement the level of care they can provide. Doing so might allow you to obtain relief during those times when they're not available (after hours, weekends).

In this type of situation, the medication that's used might be eugenol (like outlined in our home-remedy above). More likely, your dentist will dispense to you a small amount of the medicated dressing they use when providing care in their office.

◀ Our previous page discusses how dentists treat dry sockets.

 
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