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Most people in their lifetime will have to deal with a tooth extraction. The procedure itself typically will leave you will only mild discomfort. If you start to experience pain that seems to worsens days following the procedure it may be a symptom of a condition called dry socket, or alveolar osteitis.According to an article in Healthline, only a very small percentage — about 2% of people — develop dry socket after tooth extraction. In those who have it, though, dry socket can be uncomfortable. Fortunately, with the help of your dentist, you can find some relief.The socket is the hole in the bone where the tooth has been removed. After a tooth is pulled, a blood clot forms in the socket to protect the bone and nerves underneath. Sometimes that clot can become dislodged or dissolve a couple of days after the extraction. That leaves the bone and nerve exposed to air, food, fluid, and anything else that enters the mouth, which may lead to an infection.

Who Is Likely to Get Dry Socket?

Anyone can experience dry socket, but some people may be more prone to getting dry socket after having a tooth pulled. That includes people who:

  • smoke
  • have poor oral hygiene
  • have a history of dry socket after having teeth pulled

Drinking through a straw after having a tooth extracted also can raise your risk of getting dry socket.

What Are the Symptoms of Dry Socket?

If you look into the site where the tooth was pulled, you may be able to see a dry-looking opening instead of a dark blood clot. Pain is one of the main symptoms of dry socket. It typically starts about two days after the tooth was pulled. Over time it becomes more severe and can radiate to your ear.

How Is Dry Socket Treated?

If you think you may be suffering from dry socket, it is best to call and book an appointment to see your dentist right away. They will want to exam the area and help ease any discomfort you may be experiencing. They can also let you know of any OTC pain medication that may help.

Then your dentist will clean the tooth socket, removing any debris from the hole, and then fill the socket with a medicated dressing or a special paste to promote healing. You may have to come back to the dentist’s office every few days for a dressing change until the socket starts to heal and your pain lessens, but this can vary from patient to patient. Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to prevent the socket from becoming infected. To care for the dry socket at home, your dentist will go over special instructions with you.

What Can I Do to Prevent Dry Socket?

Because smoking is a big risk factor for dry socket, avoid cigarettes, cigars, and any other tobacco products for a day or so after your surgery. Check with your dentist about any medications you are taking that may interfere with normal blood clotting.

After surgery, avoid drinking through a straw for the first few days. Also don’t rinse your mouth more than your dentist recommends. If you do rinse, do so gently. Be sure to visit your dentist for all scheduled follow-up visits.