Tooth extractions don't just mean extra time at your dentist's office and a painful recovery. They also pose a frustrating but necessary interruption to your exercise routine. If your post-extraction discomfort suddenly increases just as you're reaching the end of your enforced inactivity period, don't panic. Yes, dry socket means another trip to the dentist's, but it probably won't delay your return to an active lifestyle.
Alveolar osteitis, more commonly known as dry socket, is a complication that can occur after your tooth extraction. The phrase refers to a scenario in which the blood clot that should form inside your tooth socket either does not occur at all, becomes dislodged or dissolves too soon. The lack of blood clot exposes bone and nerves, thereby delaying the healing process, opening the site to infection and causing intense pain.
Dry socket isn't, strictly speaking, a treatable condition. It will pass on its own as the extraction site heals. Medical response to dry socket consists mainly of pain relief and infection prevention. First, your dentist will flush out the socket to ensure no food or other debris remains. Next, she will apply a medicated dressing that counters the pain while it blocks bone and nerve from exposure. You'll probably begin to experience some pain relief within a few hours.
You might need to return to your dentist every few days for dressing changes and evaluation until the problem is resolved. After dressings are no longer required, your dentist will give you instructions on how, and for how long, to rinse out the socket yourself at home. You might also need to take prescription pain relievers.
Restrictions on exercise have more to do with tooth extraction aftercare than with dry socket treatment. Vigorous activity could dislodge the blood clot from the extraction site. This is no longer a concern in the case of dry socket because no blood clot exists to dislodge. Protecting the medicated dressing from being immersed or washed away may restrict swimming activity. Any pain medication your dentist prescribes during dry socket treatment can cause dizziness and similar side-effects. This might contraindicate some forms of exercise, such as running, bicycling, swimming or operating weight machines. You might instead participate with caution in gentle forms of exercise where falling down is not a risk. Tell your dentist about any exercise plan you have in mind so that she can best advise you against unnecessary risk.