Alveolar Osteitis: A Painful Post-Extraction Risk

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Alveolar osteitis, also known as dry socket, is a painful condition that sometimes occurs following a tooth extraction. Alveolar osteitis is when the protective blood clot that forms over the extraction site either does not develop properly or it becomes dislodged before the complete healing of the dental surgical wound. The blood clot helps protect the underlying bone and nerves that are located in the empty socket. Here are some symptoms of alveolar osteitis and some factors that may heighten your risk. 

Alveolar Osteitis Signs And Symptoms

The most common symptom of dry socket is severe pain. The pain typically occurs a few days following the tooth extraction, and it may radiate to other parts of your body such as your neck, eye, and ear. You may also develop an unpleasant smell and taste inside your mouth, which may indicate the presence of a socket infection. In addition, when you open your mouth, you may notice that all or part of the protective blood clot is missing from the extraction site, and in some cases, the underlying bone may be visible.

Systemic symptoms of an infection caused by alveolar osteitis may include fever, sore throat, headache, fatigue, and generalized muscle pain. If a dentist determines that you have a bacterial infection as a result of a dry socket, they will prescribe the appropriate broad-spectrum antibiotic.

Risk Factors For Alveolar Osteitis

Risk factors for a dry socket include drinking through a straw and swishing liquid around your mouth before your blood clot has healed. The suction action generated by these activities can disturb the surgical site and dislodge the clot. Cigarette smoking is another risk factor for alveolar osteitis because like drinking through a straw and swishing liquids around your mouth, it can create a suction that may loosen the blood clot.

It is also thought that if you have had alveolar osteitis in the past, you may be at an increased risk to get it again after future tooth extractions. Hormones can also play a role in the development of alveolar osteitis. If you are receiving hormone replacement therapy to manage your menopausal symptoms or if you take oral contraceptives, your risk for dry socket may rise because estrogen can impair the healing process of the protective clot.

If you develop any of the above signs and symptoms of alveolar osteitis, see a dentist as soon as possible. When treatment is implemented early on, you may be less likely to develop complications.