Dry socket, also known as alveolar osteitis, is a painful dental problem. It can develop 4 to 5 days after a tooth is pulled and is especially common after having a wisdom tooth extracted.
After a tooth extraction, a blood clot forms at the site to protect the bone and nerve endings. Dry socket occurs when this blood clot gets dislodged or dissolves before the wound has healed.
However, bacterial infection, bone and tissue trauma during tooth extraction and a small piece of bone remaining in the wound after extraction are some of the possible causes.
Certain factors increase your risk of developing dry socket, including excessive smoking and use of other tobacco products, having a dense jawbone, taking oral contraceptives, past history of having dry socket or any kind of oral infection and use of corticosteroids.
People who have dry socket experience symptoms that may include throbbing pain in and near the socket, pain in the same side of the face as the extraction, a visible bone in the socket that is sensitive to touch, swelling in the soft tissues surrounding the socket, bad breath, a bad taste in the mouth, swollen lymph nodes and mild fever.
It is important to get treated for dry socket to minimize pain and discomfort. You can help promote healing and reduce symptoms using home remedies. Also, follow the instructions given by your dentist.
1. Clove Oil
Clove oil has proven to be an effective treatment for dry socket. Its anesthetic and analgesic properties help reduce the throbbing pain that makes it difficult to even move your head.
Clove oil works by acting as a physical barrier between the exposed bone along with exposed nerve endings and the oral environment. It helps relieve pain as well as decrease the number of visits to the emergency room.
- Dip a small cotton swab in clove oil.
- Place the swab in the socket for 1 minute.
- Remove the swab and rinse your mouth with warm water.
- Do this a few times throughout the day.
2. Cold Compress
Pain in the jaw and cheek is common among those suffering from dry socket. A cold compress is a tried-and-tested remedy that you can easily use at home to alleviate pain. The cold temperature has a numbing effect on the nerves, which reduces pain.
- Dip a thin towel in cold water and wring out the excess water.
- Place the cold towel on your face in the area where you are experiencing pain.
- Hold it there for about 15 minutes.
- Repeat 4 or 5 times a day for 2 days.
- After 2 days, switch to warm compresses to help decrease pain and swelling.
3. Saline Water Rinse
Gently rinsing your mouth with warm salt water 24 hours after a tooth extraction is highly effective at preventing dry socket. The warmth of the solution will help reduce pain and swelling, while the salt will help prevent any infection.
A 2014 study published in the International Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery found that saline mouth rinses are beneficial in the prevention of alveolar osteitis after dental extractions. This study suggests using a saline mouth rinse 2 times daily.
- Mix ½ teaspoon of table salt in a glass of warm water.
- Stir it well, so that the salt fully dissolves in the water.
- Use this solution to rinse your mouth gently, 2 or 3 times a day.
4. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic that can be used to heal conditions like dry socket. It can even prevent infection of the tooth and gums if impurities get stuck where raw bone is exposed.
A 2007 study published in the Brazilian Journal of Pharmacognosy analyzed the influence of tea tree oil on the healing of infected dental alveoli and concluded that it works as a promising adjunctive wound treatment.
- Dip a cotton swab in water to moisten it.
- Put 1 or 2 drops of tea tree essential oil on it.
- Gently press the swab against the area where the dry socket has developed.
- Wait 5 minutes, then rinse it off with lukewarm water.
- Do this 2 or 3 times daily as needed.
5. Black Tea Bags
You can even use black tea bags to reduce the pain caused by a dry socket. The tannic acid present in the tea bag works like a natural antibiotic and helps reduce pain and swelling.
- Immerse a tea bag in a cup of hot water.
- After 5 minutes, remove and squeeze out the excess water.
- Put the tea bag in the refrigerator for 15 minutes and set the tea aside to cool down.
- Next, place the cold tea bag on the dry socket.
- Bite down on the tea bag with your teeth to keep it in place for at least 5 to 10 minutes.
- Then, use the tea to rinse your mouth.
- Repeat as needed.
6. Avoid Using Tobacco
Be it smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco products, both may increase your risk of dry socket. The harmful chemicals and toxins in cigarettes and other forms of tobacco prevent healing. They may even contaminate the affected site and slow down the healing process.
Furthermore, the act of smoking or chewing tobacco may physically dislodge the blood clot.
A 2011 study published in the Open Dentistry Journal notes that smoking along with surgical trauma and single extractions are predisposing factors in the occurrence of dry socket.