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.

Topic Alveolar Osteitis logo.

X-ray of extraction site.

How to treat a dry socket at home.

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

  • a) The use of oil of cloves (dentists and pharmacists refer to this compound as eugenol).
  • b) Using honey (the food) as a cure.
  • c) 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: Using 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 dry socket.

Picture of a dry socket.

Dry socket treatment usually includes the placement of a eugenol dressing in the opening of the wound.

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.
  • If you'd like more background about eugenol, including information about its therapeutic uses, here's a link to the National Institutes of Health web page that discusses it.

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

Animation showing that a eugenol dressing is placed in the opening of the tooth's dry 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 lukewarm 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. Prepare a dressing by placing 1 drop of eugenol (oil of cloves) on a carrier, such as a piece of cotton or gauze that's been shaped into a 1/4 inch ball or cube.

    The specific dimensions of the carrier should be tailored to the size of your wound. It needs to be small enough that it fits into the socket easily but also large enough that it helps to prevent food debris from accumulating.

    It must also be large enough that it can be easily grasped and recovered when it's time for it to be removed.

    In terms of density (sponginess), the carrier should be soft enough that it easily slides into the socket. But also dense enough that the wetness of the eugenol or oral liquids don't utterly collapse it. As another consideration, it must also be dense enough that it can be expected to retain the applied eugenol.

  3. Using tweezers, briefly and lightly drag the dressing across a cloth to draw away excess eugenol from it.

    (You want the eugenol only applied inside your tooth's socket. You don't want it to flow into your mouth. Nor do you want any of it to drip off the dressing onto soft oral tissues when transporting it. See eugenol precautions discussed below.)

  4. Once prepared, gently insert the completed dressing down into the opening of your tooth's socket (loosely placed, not compacted). It's expected that the top of the dressing will lie at a level below the gum line.
  5. 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.
  6. Management of the dressing is an important consideration. Your body considers it a "foreign body" and as such it interferes with the healing process. (The trade-off with treatment is that pain relief is obtained at the expense of delaying healing slightly.)
  7. In all cases, your treatment needs to cease and any dressing removed once your symptoms have subsided sufficiently (like at that point when the use of an over-the-counter pain reliever is able to keep you comfortable). This point should be reached within 4 to 5 days.
  8. At any point when 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 with eugenol.

While the use of eugenol in the treatment of dry sockets is common and routine, it's not a very bio-friendy medication.

  • Due to its cytotoxic effects (effects harmful to living cells), it's possible for it to cause soft tissue irritation, or outright tissue damage. You should take precautions that the eugenol you apply inside your socket does not come into contact with oral soft tissues.
  • It's possible for eugenol to cause bone necrosis. This is typically associated with its use in high concentrations (large amounts), or for extended periods of time (weeks).

The potential for these side effects is why the instructions above include the step of removing excess eugenol from the carrier before inserting it into the socket. And generally 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.)

  • As mentioned above, make sure to go light with the amount/concentration of eugenol placed on the carrier. 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 will sting or burn. You may also find it's taste unpleasant.

b) Treating dry sockets with honey.

Background.

Most people don't associated honey (the common foodstuff) with having therapeutic 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.

1) Ayub et al. (2013) -

Title: Effect of the Honey of Post Extraction Soft Tissue Healing of the Socket .

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.

We think that confirmation of that point is important.

2) Singh et al. (2014) -

Title: Honey a sweet approach to alveolar osteitis: A study.

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 led 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 too), the authors concluded that the use of honey could be considered a viable alternative in the management of dry sockets.

3) Soni et al. (2016)

Title: Effects of honey in the management of alveolar osteitis: A study.

Like the previous study, this one also evaluated the use of honey specifically in the treatment of dry sockets. In this case, the group of test subjects numbered 50.

The dressing involved was simply pure honey on a carrier of sterile cotton. The dressing was placed in the socket and changed daily for the first two days, then every other day.

The study's findings included:

  • A reduction in patient pain over the course of treatment. - Collectively, the study subjects rated their level of pain initially as 7.3 (out of 10). Followed by 4.7 on day 2, 2.2 on day 3 and .7 on day 5.
  • A decrease in the level of swelling. - A reduction of 25% on day 2, 63% on day 3 and 89% by day 5.
  • A significant reduction in blood CRP levels pre vs. post treatment. - The study used c-reactive protein (CRP) levels in their subjects' blood as a measure of inflammation and therefore evidence of the effectiveness of the honey treatment.
  • Visual inspection of the subject's dry sockets showed evidence of the formation of granulation tissue over the exposed bone (a sign of the resumption of the healing process) in about 1 week.

Similar to the Singh study above, no direct comparison was made with treatment involving a eugenol-based dressing. But also in similar fashion, no side effects were identified with the use of this technique.

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.

Animation showing that a honey dressing is placed in the opening of the tooth's dry 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 (loosely placed, not compacted).
  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.

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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®, Advil®) or acetaminophen (Tylenol®) are frequently used for this purpose. (You'll need to read your chosen 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.

 

Last revision/review: 9/24/2018 - Reviewed. Content added.


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