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How to Heal a Dry Socket with Clinical and TCM Remedies

Up to 5% of tooth extractions have resulted in a dry socket. Recognising the primary cause of the problem enables complete healing of the extraction site.

A woman grimaces in pain while holding her left cheek with her left palm.

In almost all cases, a person will develop a blood clot in the gum socket after a tooth extraction procedure. However, up to 5% of extractions can result in a dry socket. It happens when a blood clot fails to develop, dislodges or dissolves before the site has healed. Fortunately, there are ways to accelerate the socket’s healing or avoid this uncomfortable scenario altogether.

A dry socket causes intense pain in the affected area and pain that travels across your head and neck. Here are the main causes of the problem, and steps to treat it promptly.

Why Does a Dry Socket Occur?

A woman looks at a pill that she holds with her hand while holding a blister pack in her right hand.
Birth control pill use may increase a woman’s risk of having a dry socket.

The most common causes of a dry socket are a mouth infection, jawbone disorders, and post-tooth extraction trauma. 

You may also develop a dry socket if you: 

  • Smoke 
  • Have poor dental hygiene 
  • Use or have used birth control pills 
  • Have a dry socket previously, or a tooth extracted from the lower jaw 

Food particles that get caught inside a socket may dislodge a blood clot. Dental plaque also prevents blood clot reformation and prolongs the healing of a dry socket.

Meanwhile, bacteria trigger fermentation and the formation of toxins or antigens. These pathogens can irritate the exposed bone, make the tongue taste sour, and cause bad breath and jaw pain. 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a dry socket can occur when the extraction site is exposed to pathogenic factors.

“Normally, a dry socket is attributed to an invasion of Wind-Heat or Wind-Cold. Impaired circulation in the meridian channels due to Blood and Qi (vital life force) Stagnation is another reason why you may face this problem.” 

Eu Yan Sang TCM Physician Anita Pee

How to Heal a Dry Socket Naturally 

Avoid hard, crunchy or chewy foods until the tooth extraction site heals completely. Instead, include more yoghurt, pasta, and eggs in your diet. 

Stay away from spicy or fried foods during recovery to prevent increased body heat. Refrain from chewing food on the extraction site and clean the area vigorously. Get plenty of rest and only do light exercises to let your body heal.

Go to a dentist for treatment if the pain at the extraction site becomes unbearable. At the clinic, the dentist may: 

  • Rinse and clean the socket with salt water 
  • Place medicated gauze over the socket (to relieve pain) 
  • Teach you how to keep the extraction site clean 
  • Teach you the proper way to apply ice to the extraction site 
  • Recommend over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications 

Complementary Treatments for a Dry Socket 

The primary goals of TCM treatments for a dry socket are inflammation suppression and pain management.

Herbal remedies 

Rinsing your mouth with chrysanthemum water helps to remove body heat and calm pain and inflammation. Boil a handful of chrysanthemum flowers (ju hua, 菊花) in 300 millilitres (ml) of water. Leave to cool, and remove the flowers before use.

You can also use these herbal formulas to address dry socket symptoms holistically: 

  • Yin Qiao San (银翘散): Reduces fever, pain, and swelling by getting rid of the Wind-Heat pathogen and toxins 
  • Jing Fang Bai Du San (荆防败毒散): Reduces fever and pain by getting rid of the Wind-Cold pathogen and toxins  
  • Qing Wei San (清胃散): Stops bad breath and reduces swelling by cooling blood and the Stomach Heat pathogen  
  • Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang (血府逐瘀汤): Reduces pain by improving blood and qi circulation in the meridian channels  

Acupressure massages 

Similarly, putting pressure on specific acupoints a few times daily helps with pain management by regulating internal imbalances. Examples of these points are: 

  • He gu (LI4, 合谷 ) 
  • Lie que (LU7, 列缺) 
  • Jia che (ST6, 颊车) 
  • Xia guan (ST7, 下关)  

Combining self-care practices with alternative remedies naturally alleviates dry socket symptoms and promotes holistic healing. But, be mindful that TCM treatments are supplementary and must be approved by a licensed practitioner.  

If you have any personal tips or experiences with treating a dry socket, feel free to share them in the comments section below.

References

  1. Cleveland Clinic. Dry Socket. [online] [Accessed 30 March 2023]  
  2. National Library of Medicine. 2018. Dry Socket Etiology, Diagnosis, and Clinical Treatment Techniques. [online] [Accessed 30 March 2023] 
  3. Healthdirect Australia. Dry socket. [online] [Accessed 30 March 2023] 

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