We have long suspected that women are at a higher risk for dry socket than men. Now a new study confirms this is the case, although it’s much higher for women using hormonal birth control. A periodontist can help you manage your increased risk of dry socket and avoid further complications.

What Is Dry Socket?

Dry socket, also known as alveolar osteitis, is an uncommon complication of tooth extraction. In this condition, the bone around the extracted tooth becomes inflamed, leading to pain and poor healing. Although the condition can be quite painful, it rarely progresses to more serious complications and can be managed with the help of a dentist or periodontist.

The most common dry socket symptom is pain. While most people will see their pain levels decrease quickly after tooth extraction, people who develop dry socket see their pain levels increase again significantly about three days after their tooth extraction. This pain may be accompanied by a foul smell or discharge from the socket, related to the potential presence of oral bacteria and food trapped in the socket. However, if dry socket is caused simply by the dissolution or dislodging of the blood clot over the socket, there may be no smell, odor, or discharge.

How Much Higher Is Women’s Risk?

Several studies have pointed to women’s elevated risk of developing dry socket, but a new study has helped pinpoint it a little more precisely. This study, which is a meta-study of other research done on the topic, shows that women taking hormonal birth control are much more likely to experience dry socket. Although the impact of hormones is very different from the impact of hormones on dental implants.

Overall, in these studies, men had about a 6.6% chance of developing dry socket. Women, on the other hand, had about an 8.8% chance of developing dry socket. But the risk level wasn’t all the same for women. For women not using hormonal birth control, the risk was about 7.5%. However, women who were using birth control developed dry socket in nearly 14% of cases, more than twice as many as men.

For comparison, look at the risk factor related to smoking (which affects healing after tooth extraction just as it does after dental implant placement). About 7.5% of all nonsmokers developed dry socket, compared to 10.5% of all smokers.

Managing Dry Socket Risk

A periodontist is a specialist in performing procedures related to the gums and bones, which includes the management of extraction risks and complications.

Dry socket is normally treated by cleaning the socket of debris and bacteria, and sometimes with the use of a dressing that can help control the high levels of pain associated with the exposure of nerve endings located deep in the bone. As the pain levels are controlled, the dressing may be discontinued to allow for optimal healing.

A periodontist can help you understand your risk levels, and can perform a dental extraction in order to promote optimal healing. Your periodontist can also help you understand the best techniques for preventing dry socket.

If you want to learn more about the treatment or prevention of dry socket, please call (310) 275-5325 for an appointment with Beverly Hills periodontist Nicolas A. Ravon, DDS, MSD.