A dry socket is a complication of tooth extraction—typically wisdom tooth removal—that only
occurs in up to 5% of patients after their procedure.
Dry socket happens when the blood clot that normally forms over the areas of extraction is
somehow dislodged or never properly forms in the first place. When the blood clot is no longer
there, it leaves nerve tissue and even bone exposed after your procedure.
Dry socket will need to be treated by your dentist as soon as possible, but how can you know if
you have dry socket, and what can be done about it?
How Dry Socket Happens
Dry socket can happen for a variety of reasons. Food debris or bacteria may somehow cause
the clot to dislodge or improperly form. Any type of trauma to the area, whether it’s
accidentally hitting it with your toothbrush or chewing foods that are too hard, can also cause
People who smoke or neglect to follow their dentist’s instructions for care after wisdom tooth
removal are more at risk to experience dry socket, as are those who are on oral contraception,
as higher levels of estrogen may interfere with clot formation.
Signs and Symptoms
Dry socket will cause some discomfort and is generally painful. Patients usually experience pain
on the corresponding side of their jaw where the affected extraction site is. This pain or
throbbing may spread throughout the face.
Patients may also experience a bad taste in their mouth or have bad breath that doesn’t go
away after brushing, which can be indicative of an infection. In addition, bone may be visible at
the extraction site.
Treatment for Dry Socket
If you have a dry socket, treatment at your dentist’s office will be required. Your dentist will
clean the area in order to help prevent an infection—or treat an existing infection if
necessary—and will provide a numbing cream or gel for the pain.
Your dentist will send you home with instructions for aftercare which may include rinsing with
saltwater. A follow-up appointment is necessary to ensure the extraction site is healing
properly after your initial visit.
How to Prevent Complications After Extraction
You can have a healthy healing process after your tooth extraction by following your dentist’s
instructions. The following tips can help prevent dry socket:
Don’t smoke or use tobacco. If you haven’t quit yet, talk to your dentist or doctor about
getting help. Chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes should be avoided as well!
Eat softer foods. Sticking to soft foods after the procedure can help prevent trauma to
the extraction site and accelerate the healing process.
Keep your mouth clean. It’s important to brush gently yet thoroughly and avoid the
Rest. Take it easy for one to two days after your procedure to give your body time to
Fortunately, dry socket won’t happen to the majority of patients that need a tooth extraction.
However, if you’re worried about getting a dry socket, talk to your dentist. He or she can
provide additional tips to help you avoid this complication after your procedure. By following
your dentist’s instructions, you’ll be back to normal in no time!