Ask the Dentist: It may be painful but blood is good when it comes to getting tooth out

Lucy Stock, dentist at Gentle Dental Care in Belfast, says pain after a tooth extraction can actually be down to lack of bleeding, a 'dry socket'

Pain experienced after a tooth extraction can be due to bone being exposed when blood doesn't clot adequately in the wound
Lucy Stock

ONE of the top annoying things for dental patients is going through the experience of a dry socket after having a tooth pulled. A typical scenario for a dry socket is intense pain after the tooth has been removed.

The pain has actually nothing to do with infection, despite what most people believe. It's to do with the blood clot not forming properly in the socket and so the bone that lines the socket is exposed to the air, which results in the pain. So minor bleeding after a tooth out is a good thing (love your blood!); it means that the body will heal itself faster and more comfortably.

Dry sockets are relatively rare, with only about 2 per cent of people who have a tooth removed developing them. However, this really is no consolation if you are going through one.

The proper term for dry socket is alveolar osteitis and it can give throbbing pain – sometimes even worse than a tooth abscess pain – and make adjacent teeth feel that they are sore.

There are some factors that make getting a dry socket more likely. For example, if there already is a preexisting infection in your mouth, such as gum disease. Certain oral bacteria can cause the breakdown of the clot. Smokers, yet again, come into the firing line as nicotine causes a decrease in blood supply to the mouth, which reduces the chance of proper clot formation.

And then there's the underlying health and body type of individuals; if you have very dense bone or a hormone problem then you are more prone to a dry socket.

Try not to despair – all sockets heal eventually. Very bad ones take up to two weeks. In that time the best pain relief has been shown to be ibuprofen-and-paracetamol-mix tablets such as Nuromol. The dentist can also put a soothing dressing in the socket to help.

Naturally if you have a period of pain it's understandable how the experience of a dry socket can put people off dentistry.

More and more these days people are wanting to have their teeth replaced with implants. If you have never had an implant before you may imagine things that don't generally happen in reality. When an implant is placed, it and the bone are covered over afterwards and not exposed, as is the case after a tooth is removed.

So, although perhaps an odd concept, fortunately single-tooth implants are generally more comfortable during placement and afterwards than having a back tooth out.

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