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The condition I most wanted to avoid has caught up with me … the Dreaded Dry Socket. Since my tooth extraction last Tuesday, proper after-care has been my continual concern. I’ve also been worried to the point of sleeplessness, panic and tears over how my tooth socket has been healing. The pain hasn’t helped either.

Saturday I had a complete meltdown after realizing that I could see into my tooth socket. I thought that a scab was supposed to form over the top of the hole, covering up the socket to protect it.

Hubby took a look inside my mouth in order to calm me down and he said it looked fine. The scab was inside the hole, lining it. I relaxed and stopped obsessing … momentarily.

And then I made the big cheese mistake. I wanted a bedtime snack before taking the day’s final dose of pain meds, so I ate some Jell-O and followed that up with shredded mozzarella cheese. Hey, cheese is a soft food; it’ll be gentle on my jaw. That was my reasoning, but I forgot one important thing. Cheese is sticky.

A couple of shreds got stuck over the tooth socket and there was no removing them – no swishing with salt water, no drinking warm tea, nothing. I didn’t dare try picking at the cheese with my fingers for fear I’d damage the tissue underneath. Because I couldn’t feel the cheese and it didn’t seem to be causing any extra pain, I went to bed and hoped my mouth would work it out.

During the middle of the night, I woke with the Mother of All Nonexistent Tooth Aches. I had to get up and check the socket. The cheese was still there, but had sunk in a bit. I tried rinsing with salt water again, took more pain meds and tried to go back to sleep. I managed after some painful tossing and additional mental anguish. Damn tooth socket!

In the morning, I checked the socket again. The cheese appeared to be firmly affixed, but I was feeling more pain than previously. While going back to bed was my preference, Daughter and one of her friends had arranged for a prom dress shopping expedition and I was the day’s driver, so I got dressed instead.

The walking, standing and waiting of prom dress shopping wore me out and as the day progressed, I felt more and more socket pain, even though I was keeping a regular schedule with painkillers, ate a mostly liquid lunch, and sipped water to hydrate and clean my mouth. The one benefit of the pain, if there can be such a thing, is that it kept my mind off driving and trying to locate places that I was unfamiliar with, normally a fear-inducing process for me.

On the drive home, I felt a surge of pain and a little somethin’ somethin’ dropped in my mouth. It was the cheese, finally dislodged from the socket. The pain did not subside. As soon as I got home, I looked at the socket and saw that I could see waaaaay down into it and the tooth next door appeared to be exposed down into the root. I didn’t see scabby material anymore. I assume it got pulled out with the cheese.

Here it was … the Dreaded Dry Socket.

This wouldn’t be a huge issue if I was seeing a local dentist, but as it turns out, the dentists in Little Falls have quotas on how many patients they will accept who are on Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare. Our family has been on both. When the children were little and we were trying to locate a dentist, we called all over town only to be told our kids couldn’t be seen because of this quota. Ask me how I feel about that. What were these dentists thinking moving into a county that ranks consistently as one of the highest poverty areas in the state?

For a few years, we had to drive to The Smile Center in Deer River to take care of our family’s dental needs. And then Lakes Mobile Dental came to Little Falls – an absolute godsend for the locals, this dental clinic in an RV. It takes all the patients that local dentists refuse to see. I’ve been told by the woman who operates the dental van that Little Falls is one of their most heavily used locations.

The one issue with the dental van is that it is mobile, so in a situation like mine, where a complication arises after a procedure, a patient may not have an opportunity to return to the van for a follow-up visit. You have to wait until the van comes around again.

Given that, I made a decision last night that I would make an appointment at our local medical clinic to have my Dreaded Dry Socket looked at today. If I couldn’t get an appointment, I’d go to the Emergency Room. There was no way in hell I was going to call a local dentist about my situation. If I wasn’t good enough to be a patient while on MinnesotaCare, I’m certainly not good enough to be a patient now that I have dental insurance through Hubby’s job.

I managed to get an appointment with a doctor this afternoon. I went online and read up on procedures for treating dry socket, so I’d know what to expect. I also called Lakes Mobile Dental and talked to Rebecca, who gave me some advice on treating dry socket and mentioned that our hospital’s Emergency Room has the paste they use to treat the condition. (Good to know because I can communicate this to the doctor.) Rebecca also told me that she has seen patients follow tooth extraction after-care instructions to a “T” end up with dry socket and those who smoke and drink pop and pretty much do everything wrong post-extraction who never develop it at all.

Strangely, now that I have dry socket and know that it’s not that difficult to treat, I’m more relieved than when I was in a place where I could potentially get it. The potential was more worrisome than the actuality.

For those who want more info on treating dry socket, check out the following websites:

[Mayo Clinic] Dry socket: Treatment and drugs

[WebMD] Dry Socket: Symptoms and Treatment

[wikiHow] How to Treat a Dry Socket

[my home remedies] Home Remedies for Dry Socket


[Update 3/9/2010]

So, I went to the doctor, a doctor who’s been practicing since I was a kid, and he’s never dealt with dental trouble before. (Can you believe?)  He took a look at my extraction site, said it wasn’t infected (yay!) and asked me what I wanted him to do. I told him about the dental paste in the ER and he asked if I wanted to try it. Sure, I was game.

He went to the ER, which is connected to the clinic, and came back with the paste and a sense of utter amazement. Apparently, the ER has an entire dental kit. (I bet they’ve dealt with dental issues before.) The doctor rinsed my socket and gingerly applied the paste. It has cloves in it, which is an old home remedy for toothaches, and the paste numbed up the socket. Very nice!

The doctor told me it would only last for a day or two, so after I left the clinic, I ran to Walgreen’s and picked up a toothache kit with Eugenol in it. This, too, is made with cloves. I’ve applied it a couple of times today, but I’m a little chicken to stick a cotton swab into the bottom of the socket, which means it’s not as effective as it could be. Maybe I’ll get up the nerve next time.

I also purchased some tea – Yogi Tea Throat Comfort – that has clove bud as an ingredient in hopes to have another soothing liquid (besides water) to drink.

The goal now is to keep the socket clean and give it time to heal. The salt water rinses continue, aided by the syringe I scored from the doctor’s office. (It was the one he used to rinse out my socket, so it would have been thrown out anyway.)

The pain has not been as intense as it was this past weekend, but I was feeling woogy and headachy this morning, so I stayed home in order to give myself extra rest. I managed to sleep all morning, which was helpful.

I’m hoping there won’t be another tooth extraction update after this, both for my sake and yours!