An explanation of alveolar osteitis

Posted on: 13 April 2017


Alveolar osteitis (or dry socket, as it is more commonly known) is a condition which causes the alveolar bone to become inflamed. It usually occurs after a tooth extraction, if the blood clot that developed on the wound site is dislodged. This dislodgement exposes the underlying nerves and bone to bacteria, food particles and saliva, all of which can cause inflammation.

What can cause dry socket?

As mentioned above, dry socket typically develops after a tooth has been removed and the blood clot at the site of the extraction is dislodged. There are several things which can cause this issue. If, for instance, the person repeatedly touches the wound site with their finger or consumes foods that tend to leave behind particles in the mouth (such as peanuts or popcorn), then there is a good chance that the blood clot will be displaced. The suction created by smoking cigarettes or drinking through a straw can also result in the dislodgement of the blood clot.

What are the main symptoms of this oral condition?

The main symptom of dry socket is an intense, throbbing pain which develops a few days after a tooth has been extracted. This pain will usually radiate outwards from the wound site to other parts of the face. The sufferer may also notice that the socket from which the tooth was removed looks empty and that they have a foul taste in their mouth, which cannot be improved by brushing the teeth or rinsing with mouthwash.

How can it be treated?

If a patient at a dental clinic is diagnosed with alveolar osteitis, their dentist will usually recommend that the person take anti-inflammatory medication to help alleviate their pain. They may also carefully extract any food particles which have become trapped inside the socket. After the wound site has been thoroughly cleaned, they will then cover it with a special dental paste that will shield the nerves and bone underneath from further irritation and inflammation. Additionally, if a bacterial infection has developed in the socket, the patient may be prescribed a course of antibiotics.

How can this condition be prevented?

To prevent dry socket from developing after a tooth extraction, activities such as smoking and drinking through straws should both be avoided for at least a few days. The patient should practice good oral hygiene and gently rinse their mouth with salt water several times a day, to help reduce the chance of bacteria entering the wound site and causing inflammation or infection. They should also stick to soft foods, (such as yoghurts and smoothies) that won't get affect the stability of the blood clot.