Here’s the next article in the Q&A series, with common questions with simple answers and definitions backed up by our dentists around Manchester and the North of England, so you can refer back to it whilst you browse our website.
What is ‘Dry Socket’?
Dry socket, or Alveolar Osteitis is a complication after a dental extraction where a blood clot fails to form or becomes dislodged from the socket of an extracted tooth, preventing it from healing properly.
Symptoms can include increased pain around the extraction site between 1-3 days after the operation, which can’t be effectively managed by painkillers. Some patients also complain of a foul smell at the affected site.
Dry socket symptoms show as an exposed socket without a blood clot - whereas a socket that’s healing normally consists of a blood clot that is then replaced by new gum tissue and eventual healing over a 1–2 week period.
Some causes are not properly looking after the socket with excessive rinsing which dislodges the clot, post-operative infection, smoking, oral contraceptives, or physical trauma during extraction.
What is ‘Dry Mouth’?
Dry mouth (Xerostomia) is a condition where the salivary glands don't make enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. Dry mouth is often a side effect of certain medications, smoking, other drug use or as a result of radiation therapy for cancer.
Saliva is important in protecting your teeth from decay and acids, as well as distributing calcium, phosphate and fluoride around the mouth, which helps enamel recover after eating acidic foods.
Some ways to combat temporary dry mouth are keeping water on hand to take frequent sips throughout the day and when you go to bed, as well as brushing your teeth twice a day and using an alcohol-free mouthwash – alcohol can have a drying effect which can make things worse.
If the symptoms persist for longer than a couple of weeks, it’s important to see a GP who may be able to prescribe gels, lozenges, tablets or sprays, as well as decide if further investigation and treatment is necessary.
Why does toothache hurt so much?
Toothache stimulates the nerves in each tooth (which are located in the dental ‘pulp’) which link directly to pain centres in your brain. Teeth cannot tell the difference between sensations like heat, cold, sweetness or contact - so the only response sent to the brain when consuming hot, cold, sugary or acidic foods, or if the affected tooth is touched, is pain.
As teeth cannot repair themselves like flesh or bone, (teeth are closer to stones than bone) the intense pain signals do not subside like with an injury such as a cut or bruise, instead it lingers and worsens over time until the problem is treated, and can climb to unbearable levels when combined with a fever, earache or jaw ache.
To make matters worse, if you lie down, the rush of blood to your head can apply more pressure to the affected region, making tooth pain seem even worse during the night time when you’re trying to get to sleep.
Toothache related to an infection can spread outwards from the initial site to affect the ear too, leaving you with howling ear ache on top of everything else, so don’t let an infection get the better of you and seek medical assistance sooner rather than later.
What should I do if my tooth has been knocked out?
A knocked-out adult tooth can often be saved by placing it in milk or saliva as soon as possible, or by successfully re-inserting it before seeing a dentist.
If you’ve lost an adult tooth, do not touch the root - hold it by the part which would normally be visible. If it’s dirty, lick the tooth clean or rinse it in cold running water for no more than 10 seconds if you have access.
Try to re-insert the tooth - if this proves too difficult, place it in milk, saliva or the inside of your cheek until you can see a dentist. If you succeed, bite down carefully on a clean cloth to keep it in place and go to a dentist as soon as possible.
If you’ve lost a baby tooth, do not try to re-insert as this could damage the adult tooth growing beneath