You've successfully had your wisdom teeth removed and, as far as you can tell, everything went well. But then, a couple of days after the extraction, you start to feel mild discomfort in the spot where your tooth was removed. You push your tongue into the spot and you feel a hole.
You may have a dry socket, meaning the blood clot that formed to help your mouth heal after the extraction has come loose or never developed in the first place. Here's what you need to know about the condition and some home remedies for dry socket that might help you find relief.
Dry Socket 101
Some people are more at risk for developing a dry socket than others, as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) points out. If the extraction was difficult, if you have poor oral health or if you smoke, you might be more likely to develop a dry socket. Women who are taking oral contraceptives may have an increased risk of developing a dry socket, too, according to a study published in The Journal of the American Dental Association. The study found that women taking birth control pills had nearly twice the risk of dry socket compared to those who weren't taking oral contraceptives.
Although dry socket can be an unpleasant experience, it is treatable. Dry socket treatment typically involves applying a medicated dressing to the area and flushing out the socket, according to the NIH. The following home remedies for dry socket may also provide relief and can be used along with the treatments provided by your dentist. Be sure to consult with your dentist before trying any home remedies.
1. Rinse With Salt Water
The NIH notes that rinsing your mouth with salt water after an extraction may help treat dry socket. But this technique may even help prevent dry socket in the first place. A study published in Evidence-Based Dentistry found that patients who didn't use a salt water rinse after an extraction were more likely to develop dry socket compared to those who did. Rinsing twice a day may be all that's needed to decrease your risk of dry socket.
2. Use a Cold Compress
Another way to get relief from the discomfort caused by dry socket is to apply an ice pack to the area, as the NIH outlines. When using a cold compress, apply it to the outside of the jaw rather than trying to hold it inside of your mouth. The Canadian Dental Association recommends applying a cold compress to the extraction area throughout the day, especially during the first 24 hours after the surgery. Leave the compress in place for 10 minutes, and then take a 10-minute break and repeat.
3. Stay Hydrated
The Mayo Clinic recommends drinking plenty of clear fluids after tooth extraction to help a dry socket heal. Staying hydrated will help you avoid any side effects of pain medications, such as feelings of nausea. You can drink plain water to stay hydrated or sip on clear broth.
4. Watch What You Put in Your Mouth
If you develop a dry socket, it's important to be conscious of what you put in your mouth while the area is healing. For example, the NIH advises against smoking or drinking alcohol during the healing period. The Mayo Clinic recommends not drinking through a straw, as the pressure from the straw can dislodge the dressing placed in the socket by your dentist.
Although home remedies may help ease some of the discomfort of a dry socket, it's still important to see your dentist for care and treatment if you think you've developed a dry socket after your tooth extraction. Your dentist can provide you the appropriate medications to help the socket heal quickly and give you pointers on how to stay comfortable during recovery.