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Dry Socket – Herbal First Aid

Dry Socket – Herbal First Aid

A dry socket is extremely painful. It is the result of a dislodged blood clot after a tooth extraction. Blood clots are nature’s way of cushioning a wound and aiding the healing process. Without the clot, the wound and damaged nerves are exposed to air and the healing process is compromised.

There are a number of reasons that a blood clot could be dislodged. Sometimes remaining bits of bone or tooth disrupt the clotting process. The dentist can remove them with instruments or you can swish them out with a salt water rinse. (see Tips for Avoiding Dry Socket below)

Smoking causes problems with wound healing. Your dentist will probably suggest that you stop smoking anything and cut tobacco chewing for at least 48 hours. There are many reasons for this. All smoking (including vapors pens) involves a sucking motion that can dislodge the blood clot. You will notice that using straws is also off the list of things to do after a tooth extraction.

Nicotine, which is in all tobacco products causes blood vessels to tighten which reduces the flow of blood borne nutrients and white blood cells to the wound thus diminishing the healing process. It is not easy to quit smoking but licorice can help. Try a cup of licorice root tea. If you can do any chewing at all, chew on (don’t suck on) licorice root as you would a toothpick. Just a small piece on the opposite of the mouth as the extraction will fill the mouth with licorice constituents and give your tongue something to do besides play with the wound.

winterteacupEat only soft foods, such as yogurt, broth or applesauce, for the first few days. Apples are full of pectin which helps bind cells togethers. Applesauce with added cinnamon helps control blood sugar when you start to fill woozy. Start eating semisoft foods when you can tolerate them. Warm green tea feels great after a dental appointment. Gradually add more fibrous foods as you heal. Remember that you have an open wound in your mouth. Avoid food that could easily get lodged in your wound.

If you have had dry socket in the past, you are likely to get it again. Prevent infection by taking berberine rich herbs such as Oregon grape, goldenseal, or coptis. Use it internally or as a mouth rinse. If you have the privilege of having Oregon grape growing in your area, pick the berries and make them into an antioxidant rich vinegar. Even a spoonful of Oregon grape vinegar in a little warm water makes a fabulous mouth rinse.

There are 2 herbs that do well at numbing the area: clove and spilanthes. Many people are familiar with the power of clove essential oil. Just a drop or 2 of clove essential oil on a cotton swab applied directly to the area surrounding the wound will bring quick relief.

Spilanthes is a lesser known herb. It is commonly called toothache plant for good reason.  Swish with the tincture or herb infused vinegar in a little water to numb the area. You can hold the liquid in your mouth on the side that the wound is aching for a while until it starts to tingle.

Two other neglected herbs in preventing dry socket is echinacea and calendula. Both of these herbs are easy to procure and encourages healing to area. We include calendula in our Herbal Dental Rinse formula for a good reason. They can be brewed up as a tea and then used as a mouth wash or gargle. The trick is to be consistent. It takes time to heal. Be patient.

Herbs for Dry Socket

  • Licorice
  • Applesauce
  • Oregon Grape
  • Goldenseal
  • Coptis
  • Clove
  • Spilanthes
  • Calendula
  • Echinacea

Tips for Avoiding Dry Socket

After oral surgery, drink lots of water. Don’t drink alcoholic, caffeinated, carbonated or hot beverages for at least 24 hours. Don’t drink with a straw or smoke for at least a week because the sucking action may dislodge the blood clot in the socket.
Get lots of rest. Plan to take the rest of the day off. You just went through oral surgery. Let your body have a chance to rebuild and recover. Don’t push yourself to resume regular activity for at least 24 hours. Do not engage in strenuous exercise or sports for a week or more depending on your healing process.
Dentists suggest gently rinsing your mouth and brushing your teeth, but avoid the extraction site. A warm salt water rinse (1/2 tsp salt + 8 0z water) every two hours while awake and after meals for a week after your surgery is also a common suggestion. Herbal dental rinse formula can be added to the salt water solution.

Sue Sierralupe

Sue Sierralupé is a Certified Master Herbalist, Master Gardener and Sustainable Landscape Specialist. She is the clinic manager and lead herbalist at Occupy Medical clinic. Sue is author of The Pocket Herbal: Medicinal Plants that Changed the World and co-author of The Practical Herbalist Herbal Folios series. Follow her blog at Herbalism Manifesto for commentary on herbs, parenting, nutrition and a whole lot more.


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