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Dry Socket / Osteitis

Lower molar tooth extraction socket after removal shows twin roots and alveolar bone.

A lower permanent molar extraction socket. Although severe pain is a hallmark of dry socket, swelling is not generally found because the problem is inflammation of the bony-walled socket. The normal, healthy blood clot which is usually found in the tooth socket is missing.

Dry socket (osteitis) is inflammation of a tooth socket following the removal of a tooth. There are many synonyms for the condition, and the most appropriate is fibrinolytic alveolitis, which translates literally to mean “loss of blood clot, followed by inflammation of the tooth socket.”

Dry sockets are very painful, generally begin within 2-3 days following tooth removal, and typically last 10-15 days regardless of whether the patient is treated for them or not. Reports exist of cases lasting over a month.

Dry socket is more common in women, and the likelihood of developing a dry socket increases with use of oral contraceptives, increasing difficulty of tooth removal, surgical skill level, and presence of infection. Dry socket also occurs more frequently for patients who smoke and patients with suppressed immune function. Dry socket is more common when a single tooth is extracted then when multiple teeth are extracted. It is not known why this happens.

The most frequently involved teeth are lower wisdom teeth (third molars). Dry sockets from wisdom tooth removal are about ten times more common than when other teeth are removed.

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Author: Thomas J. Greany, D.D.S. / Editor: Ken Lambrecht

This page was last updated on March 2, 2018.

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