Dry Sockets


Having your teeth pulled is rarely an enjoyable experience. However, the pain can be managed with a few days of rest. After undergoing an extraction it is fairly normal to experience dry sockets. 

What is a Dry Socket?

A dry socket is a postoperative condition in which pain occurs inside and around the extraction site. While this condition could be rather uncomfortable, dry sockets will usually heal on their own or can be treated at an early stage by your dentist. 

This condition is usually accompanied by bad breath or a foul taste in your mouth. The occurrence of severe pain after tooth extraction means the healing process has been disrupted.

People generally experience dry sockets when the blood clot at their buccal cavity is dislodged or not properly formed. When the tooth is extracted from a preceding procedure, it leaves a hole in the jawbone where it is extracted. This exposes the bone and nerve in the gum area. Normally, these blood clots form at the extraction site to protect the bone and nerves. If the clot is dislodged or not properly formed, it leads to severe pain.

What causes Dry Sockets?

One should normally not expect to have a dry socket if their buccal cavity isn’t dislodging or currently undergoing improper blood clot formation around the extraction site. Blood clotting is the first step to healing after extraction. Besides protecting the socket, it aids the development of the soft tissues.

You can easily trace the symptoms of a dry socket to one of these four factors:

  • Mechanical: This could be a result of aggressive sucking, spitting, and rinsing. Aggressive smoking of cigarettes or other smoking devices result in loss of blood clots.
  • Bacterial: An underlying infection is present in the mouth before tooth extraction. Some of these include periodontitis which can prevent the proper formation of a blood clot.
  • Chemical: Nicotine present in cigarettes reduces blood circulation in the mouth. This can result in dislodgement or loss of blood clots.
  • Physiological factors: This results from poor blood supply and hormonal issues.


The most common tell-tale sign of a dry socket is severe pain. Commonly one would experience unexplained, intense pain around the extraction site usually 2-3 days after a dental procedure. However, it can occur at any time during the healing process. It is very easy for this pain to transition into other parts of the face.

Another sign of dry socket is having exposed nerves and bones. For example, if you view your open mouth in a mirror and notice exposed nerves and bone, it might be a dry socket. When you notice your surrounding tissue appearing to be grey in colour, it might be due to poor blood clotting which leads to this issue. Other symptoms include an unpleasant taste in your mouth and bad breath.

If one or more of these symptoms present themselves after a tooth extraction, you should see your dentist immediately.


The first step to treating a dry socket is to contact your dentist. First, your dentist would work on cleaning and extracting the particles from the socket. This helps to prevent further infection which reduces pain. Next, your dentist would fill up the socket with medicated dressing or paste. As expected, this procedure would help numb the pain and speed up your healing process. 

It is very likely that you’ll have to come back for re-dressings every few days until the infection is cleared. Your dentist might also recommend a saltwater rinse to care for the socket at home. In addition, taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug would help alleviate the pain along with a cold compress. 


There are several ways of preventing dry sockets, especially after surgery. By taking the following steps after surgery, you can reduce the chances of developing a dry socket.

  1. Select an experienced dentist to perform the extraction. The method used by the oral surgeon matters a lot. Such preventive methods include:
  • The use of sutures 
  • Placement of packing at the surgery.

All these procedures should be discussed with your surgeon before the surgery.

  1. Avoid activities like smoking before or after the extraction. 
  2. Some medications like aspirin prevent blood clots and should be avoided.
  3. Follow the recovery guidelines provided by your dentist.


It is important to note that a dry socket can occur at any time after tooth extraction. Although the condition can be painful, it is treatable. Also, early diagnosis of the dry socket would quickly help alleviate any discomfort. Practicing great oral hygiene significantly reduces the risk of developing a dry socket with smokers being more prone to develop the condition.


Who is most likely to develop dry sockets?

Those most likely to develop a dry socket are people with existing infections, bad oral hygiene, smokers, and ones on anti-blood clot medication.

How can I avoid dry sockets?

Dry sockets can be prevented through good oral health. Also, if you are having your teeth extracted, stay away from smoking before and after the surgery.

Do I have a dry socket?

If you are experiencing excruciating pain a few days after surgery, you probably have a dry socket. Catching the symptoms early will help you treat them immediately with your preferred dental professional and save yourself a bucket load of pain.

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