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.
Experts do not know the exact cause of this. 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.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for dry socket.
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.
Hence, it is recommended to stop smoking completely before and after your extraction. If needed, seek help from experts to quit permanently.
Turmeric is an analgesic and anti-inflammatory herb that can help deal with the pain of a dry socket. In addition to reducing pain, turmeric will speed up the healing process.
- Mix ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder and a little water or milk to form a paste. Use a cotton swab to apply it on the area where the dry socket has formed. Wait 20 minutes, then rinse your mouth with lukewarm water. Do this 2 to 3 times a day, as needed.
- Another option is to mix 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder in a glass of lukewarm water. Use this solution to rinse your mouth a few times daily until the pain is gone.
As garlic is anti-inflammatory and a natural antibiotic, it is also effective at reducing pain in the gums and teeth due to dry socket. It can even reduce the risk of an infection.
- Place a fresh garlic clove in your mouth and crush it with your teeth. As the juice of the garlic will spread inside your mouth, the pain will gradually subside. Spit out the clove after 5 minutes and rinse your mouth with warm water. Do this 2 or 3 times a day or as needed.
- Alternatively, make a paste of 2 fresh garlic cloves and a little salt using a mortar and pestle. Apply this paste to the extraction site for at least 30 minutes before rinsing it off with lukewarm water. Repeat as needed to relieve pain.
9. Apple Cider Vinegar
Cleansing your mouth with apple cider vinegar can help prevent infection after tooth extraction, thanks to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Mix equal parts of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and water. Use it as a mouth rinse 2 or 3 times a day.
- Another option is to dip a cotton ball in the solution prepared above and place it on the affected area. Hold it there for about 10 minutes. Repeat 2 times a day.
10. Eat Soft Foods and Stay Hydrated
After getting your wisdom tooth removed, it is essential to stay hydrated to reduce the risk of dry socket. Lack of water in the body will halt cellular migration, decrease oxygenation of the blood and delay healing of the wound.
Also, during the first two days after a dental extraction, you need to be careful about what you eat.
- Drink plain water at regular intervals throughout the day. However, try to drink from the side of the mouth opposite from the extraction site as much as possible.
- Stick to soft foods like smoothies, yogurt, applesauce, boiled potatoes, boiled eggs, clear soup and pudding. As your wound starts healing, shift from soft to semi-soft foods.
- You can even eat ice cream. Since it is cold, it will help reduce pain.
- Do not eat anything that leaves residual food particles in your mouth for a few days.
- Avoid eating hard, chewy, crunchy and spicy foods for a few days. These foods may pool in the socket and cause irritation or infection.
- While eating, chew on the other side of your mouth.
- Always look for a dentist or oral surgeon with experience in tooth extractions.
- Do not increase the dosage of prescription medications or take over-the-counter painkillers without consulting your dentist.
- Visit your dentist as scheduled for dressing changes and other care. If your pain returns or worsens before your next appointment, feel free to call your dentist.
- Women taking oral contraceptives who need to have their wisdom teeth removed should schedule it during the last week of their monthly birth control pills’. High estrogen levels due to oral contraceptives may increase the risk of dry socket.
- Use antibacterial mouthwashes and toothpastes before and after surgery.
- For a few days following a tooth extraction surgery, avoid the extraction site while brushing your teeth.
- Do not drink alcoholic, caffeinated, carbonated or hot beverages in the first 48 hours.
- For a week after your surgery, avoid rigorous exercise and other physical activities that might result in dislodging the blood clot from the socket.
- Before your surgery, always inform your dentist about any prescription or over-the-counter medications or supplements you are taking.
- Do not use straws for sipping anything within the first week of an extraction to reduce the risk of dry socket.
- Maintain proper oral hygiene to help heal a dry socket.
- Do not touch the wound with your fingers or other objects.
- Try to sleep with your head elevated to reduce pain.