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What Is A Dry Socket & How Does It Happen?

Home > What Is A Dry Socket & How Does It Happen?

What Is A Dry Socket & How Does It Happen?

Most of us hope that getting a tooth pulled is the end of our misery in bearing tooth pain or a tooth infection. However, a dental condition called dry socket can occur during tooth extraction recovery. Learn more about this painful condition and the importance of following the proper post-extraction care.

What is a dry socket?

A dry socket or alveolar osteitis happens when the blood fails to clot, or the blood clot is dislodged or dissolved in the extraction site and exposes the bone and nerves. It is a painful dental condition where the pain can radiate to the cheeks or half of the face. 

Usually, the pain due to your sore gums and jaw from a tooth extraction lasts about a day or two. With a dry socket, the pain becomes worse and lasts for 5 to 6 days after the extraction.

A dry socket is a common complication after tooth extraction. The blood clot in the extraction site serves as the protective layer of the wound as the bone and nerves heal. It supports the regeneration of new soft tissues and bone in the extraction site. 

In the case of a dry socket, the recovery from the extraction can’t progress due to the absence of a blood clot. The extraction site stays exposed to bacteria and food debris which can lead to an infection. The exposure of the bone may trigger a bacterial infection which can spread deeper into the jawbone. 

Some patients are more susceptible to dry sockets than others due to several risk factors. Patients may not experience bleeding, but the severe pain can cause problems sleeping for several days. 


Researchers believe that the failure of the blood to clot is due to bacterial contamination or trauma in the extraction site. The contamination can be mainly due to improper post-extraction care or contaminants from the water or food you consume. 

Poking the extracted site with your tongue or accidentally pushing it may also disrupt the clotting process or dislodge the blood clot that is already forming.


Aside from extreme pain several days after the tooth extraction, here are the other symptoms of a dry socket:

  • Visible bone in the extraction site
  • Unpleasant or metallic taste in your mouth
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Radiating pain to your eyes, neck, ear, or temple

Who is more at risk for dry socket?

Some patients have a higher chance of developing a dry socket due to their health conditions or lifestyle habits, such as:

  • Smoking: The sucking action while smoking may dislodge the formation of a blood clot in the extraction site. Also, nicotine in tobacco products can reduce blood flow and cause impaired healing of the damaged tissues.
  • Contraceptive use: Contraceptives increase estrogen levels in women and can slow down wound healing.
  • Poor oral hygiene and post-extraction care: Failure to follow your dentist’s post-extraction home care can lead to a dry socket.
  • History of dry socket in another tooth: You are more likely to experience dry socket again if you have experienced it during a previous tooth extraction.
  • Wisdom teeth extraction: Wisdom tooth removal has a 30% chance of developing a dry socket. 
  • Tooth or gum infection in the extraction site: The presence of bacteria from the extracted tooth or gums can make you more susceptible to a dry socket.

Avoid smoking to prevent dry socket.

Helpful tips to prevent dry socket after tooth extraction

The pain due to tooth extraction is inevitable. However, you can save yourself from a different level of pain caused by a dry socket by doing the following steps:

  1. Avoid smoking during your recovery period: Work with your dentist on how you can control your smoking habit for a week after your tooth extraction.
  2. Keep up with your post-extraction home care: Be gentle with yourself as your mouth recovers from your tooth extraction. Gargle salt water 24 hours after the extraction, and brush and floss twice a day. Take your prescribed medications on time, especially the antibiotics. 
  3. Inform your dentist about your other medications: Let your dentist know if you are taking any maintenance medication or contraceptives that may affect your wound healing.
  4. Avoid spitting or drinking from a straw: While it is easy to keep the food and juice off the extraction site using a straw, the sucking action can disrupt the clotting process. Instead, you can chew on the other side of your mouth when eating your food. 

You may also rinse your mouth immediately after eating to prevent any food debris from getting to the extraction site. 

Possible complications of the dry socket if left untreated

The infection involved in a dry socket can spread to your jaw bone, which causes a chronic bone infection called osteomyelitis. The wound healing can take longer, and so does the extreme pain. You will also become more prone to experience a dry socket again in your future tooth extraction. 

Let Aten & Garofalo Dentistry check your condition before it gets worse

If you notice that the pain is getting worse in the extracted site, it’s best to visit your dentist as soon as possible. The treatment for a dry socket may include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Antibacterial oral rinse or gel
  • Antiseptic solution for cleaning the wound
  • Cleaning and application of medicated dressing or gauze
  • Pain medications

You don’t have to experience the extreme throbbing pain brought on by a dry socket. Let our dental team check your condition so you can achieve a safe and speedy recovery. Aten & Garofalo Dentistry offers comprehensive dental treatments in Ballantyne, NC. Schedule an appointment now and prevent any complications. 

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