A potential complication after tooth extraction is an alveolar osteitis (alveolitis), also known as a “dry socket.” It usually occurs three to four days after removal of a tooth.
Alveolar osteitis is very painful condition occurs when the blood clot formed after the extraction does not hold to the bone in the socket and becomes dislodged.
The exact causes for alveolar osteitis are not clear, but it is believed that it can be caused by an infection in the area, the patient eating or drinking too soon after the extraction, or the patient rinsing too soon (fewer than 12 to 24 hours from when the extraction was done).
Whatever the cause of the dry socket, the blood clot does not hold to the bone, and the bone is exposed to the oral environment.
This exposed bone is the primary cause of the dull, aching pain, which is generally either moderate or severe, usually throbs, and frequently radiates to the patient’s ear. The area of the socket has a bad odor, and the patient may complain of a bad taste from that area.
Treatment of a dry socket consists of cleaning and irrigating the area with sterile saline solution, and sterile iodoform gauze saturated with “dry socket” medication is placed in the socket.
This will cover the exposed bone and relieve the pain associated with alveolar osteitis. The dressing should be changed and repacked in the socket every day or two for 3 to 6 days depending on the severity of the pain.