Dry socket (also known as alveolar osteitis) is a relatively rare complication that occurs after a tooth is extracted (1). The symptoms of dry socket occur because the blood clot that normally forms in the socket of the extracted tooth to protect the exposed nerves and underlying bone, dissolves too quickly or fails to form at all. As a result, the bone and nerves are exposed to bacteria, air, food, drinks, and other objects that enter your mouth (2). Dry socket is incredibly painful and the pain can last for days without an effective dry socket treatment. However, there is no need to suffer alone, as we have put together several home remedies for dry socket to get pain relief fast.
What causes dry socket
Dry socket is caused by the failure of the blood clot to form properly and is made more probable by several factors. This happens more frequently with wisdom teeth, individuals who have previously suffered from dry socket, smokers, individuals who use oral contraceptives such as birth control pills, individuals with bad dental hygiene, and when difficulties are involved in the tooth extraction process (3). Habitual behavior that involves intense chewing, spitting or sucking on cigarettes or straws, having a dense jawbone, and hormonal factors (dry socket is more common in women than men) are listed as additional factors (4).
Symptoms of Dry Socket
The symptoms of dry socket typically involve an intense and persistent pain that begins a few days after a tooth is extracted (5). The pain may intensify when you breathe in cold air or drink cold water, and is often accompanied by a foul odor and taste in your mouth, due to the accumulation of food debris in the empty socket (6).
The tissue will eventually heal over the exposed bone in between seven to ten days, but a dentist will usually attempt to alleviate the painful symptoms in the meantime. He or she would gently remove all food debris and other materials from the socket, and then apply medicated dressing over the area to reduce the pain (7). This dressing may be replaced multiple times throughout the healing process, depending on how long it takes for the dry socket to resolve itself. Dentists may also prescribe antibiotics (e.g. amoxicillin), or use sutures and local hemostatic to treat dry socket.
If you would rather alleviate the symptoms of dry socket with natural home remedies, here are some possible options that will help reduce the discomfort:
Home Remedies For Dry Socket
Honey has been used for many years in folk medicine; it was used to treat infected wounds long before the discovery of bacteria. Its antibacterial properties were scientifically recognized in 1892 by van Ketel: its hygroscopic properties, its acidic pH and hydrogen peroxide (produced enzymatically in honey) create an inhibitory effect that works against approximately 60 species of bacteria (8). The properties of honey make it an excellent home remedy for dry socket.
An Indian study of 54 patients with dry socket discovered that the application of honey dressing significantly reduced inflammation, hyperemia (an increased blood flow to the region), edema (swelling) and exudation (fluid oozing from the wound), thus reducing the discomforting pain they experienced (9). Other clinical studies reveal that infected wounds which are treated with honey become sterile after 3-6 days.
- Oil of Cloves
Oil of cloves (also known as eugenol in its unrefined form) contains a chemical that helps to reduce pain, and has been used as a toothache remedy for centuries (10). Its anesthetic and analgesic properties render it useful in treating dry socket, as well as a toothache and for pain control during dental surgery (11).
All you need to do is to soak a cotton swab in clove oil, and then place it over the area affected by dry socket for sixty seconds. Use warm water to rinse your mouth thoroughly afterward. Do note that clove oil can be dangerous when used in large amounts and that eugenol can slow blood clotting. As such, avoid this home remedy if you will soon be undertaking any form of dental surgery (12). Do also avoid using close oil with other medicines or herbs that slow blood clotting.
- Cold Pack
Applying a cold pack to the outside of your jaw is a simple and fuss-free way to alleviate the pain caused by dry socket (13).
- Tea Bag
Tea has many health benefits as it contains tannic acid, which can be used to treat inflammatory pain conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatic arthritis and burn pain (14). You can benefit from its analgesic properties by placing a tea bag (which has been steeped in hot water and then chilled in the fridge) onto the sore areas affected by the dry socket. After that, you can wash your mouth with the lukewarm tea water.
Turmeric, a herb with many medicinal properties, and has specific relevance to the maintenance of oral health. Its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, hepatoprotective, immunostimulant, antiseptic, and antimutagenic qualities can aid recovery from dry socket, chiefly by alleviating inflammation and reducing the microbial count in your mouth (15).
Regular use of homemade turmeric mouthwash (which was prepared by dissolving 10 mg of curcumin extract in 100 ml of distilled water, and then adding 0.005% of peppermint oil as a flavoring agent, with pH adjusted to 4) was found to be as effective as the regularly prescribed chlorhexidine mouthwash (16). Rinsing your mouth regularly with a turmeric mouthwash can thus be a convenient way to recover from dry socket.
- Tea Tree Oil
After being used for nearly a century by the aboriginal people of Australia, tea tree (melaleuca) oil has gained widespread recognition for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties (17). The properties of tea tree oil make it an effective home remedy for dry socket. To benefit from its antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and antiprotozoal activities, you can press a cotton swab which has been soaked in water and dabbed in a few drops of tea tree oil over the afflicted area. After five minutes, rinse your mouth with warm water gently and thoroughly.
Do note that the oral consumption of tea tree oil can cause serious problems (e.g. confusion and ataxia, the loss of muscle coordination); be sure to avoid swallowing it.
7. Apple Cider Vinegar
The health and beauty benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar are legendary. At HomeRemedyHacks, we can’t recommend ACV enough. The vinegar has fantastic antibacterial properties (18) as well as containing many beneficial enzymes which can be applied to a wealth of health issues from dandruff to pelvic inflammatory disease.
Apple cider vinegar is best to use as a mouth rinse but needs to be diluted 50% water. Pure vinegar, as it is an acid can sting a little so dilution is necessary. If you can’t bare the taste of a mouth rinse, dab some vinegar solution on cotton balls and apply to the dry socket. The vinegar will quickly get to work on any infection.
Yogurt is an obvious food to eat if you suffer from dry socket. Eating rough, chewy foods is not advised as excessive chewing can dislodge any new clots that may have formed, putting the recovery process back. Soft foods are always preferred and if the food is chilled, even better. Yogurt certainly fits the bill but it has other health benefits that make it a great treatment.
Yogurt is a probiotic food which contains many types of good bacteria that aid digestion and assist the body’s natural processes to break down food. While it is not anti-bacterial, the good bacteria will ‘compete’ with the bad bacteria in the dry socket, restricting their growth
Garlic has many health benefits and it is also one of nature’s best antibacterial herbs.(19). Given it strong antibacterial properties, it is a great treatment for dry socket especially if the socket is infected.
The best way to apply is to crush several cloves and very lightly fry in vegetable oil. (If you have an antibacterial oil such as oregano or thyme oil to hand, even better). Strain the garlic from the oil, keeping the oil, and use the cotton balls to dab the garlic infused oil on the socket. Make sure the oil is cool!
10. Valerian Root
If you want a natural pain relief, then look no further than valerian root. Valerian root has been used for centuries to alleviate the symptoms of insomnia (which you are probably suffering from, given the pain) (20) but also to alleviate the sensitivity of the nervous system in general. It can be used a soothing pain relief for dry socket.
To use valerian root for dry socket, the best way is to make a tea. Simply add a clump of the roots to boiling water and let the roots stew for 10-15minutes. Simply sip the tea twice a day to get relief (You can leave the roots in the tea to get a bit more potency).
Ginger is not only one of nature’s best antibiotics (21) but it is also anti-inflammatory (22) and an analgesic (pain relief) (23). These three properties combined make it a great treatment for dental problems in general, where bacteria, pain, and inflammation often combine. Indeed, research is currently been conducted into ginger for use in wider dental applications (24). To use ginger to soothe dry socket, the simplest method and by far the most pleasant is to sip ginger tea as regularly as possible.
12. Avoid excessive brushing
As mentioned, the principle cause of dry socket is when a blood clot fails to form or dissolve too quickly after tooth extraction. The aim of all the home remedies for dry socket is to allow the clot to reform as fast as possible by clearing any possible infections from the hole. If you brush the wound, the chances are that you will dislodge any new clot that may be forming so it is imperative when you brush, to avoid brushing the wound.
Do’s and Don’ts of Dry Socket
- Stay well-hydrated throughout the recovery process
- Always maintain a healthy diet
- Opt for softer foods that are easier to chew
- Rinse your mouth regularly
- Complete the antibiotic treatment prescribed by your dentist
- Do not consume alcohol or smoke
- Do not chew tobacco
- Do not consume dry and spicy foods
- Do not drink with a straw
- Do not rub or touch the afflicted area with your hands
- Do not spit or rinse vigorously