What is Dry Socket: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Dry SocketAfter the extraction of a tooth, a blood clot should form in the extraction site to protect the bone. However, in a dry socket, also known as alveolar osteitis, that blood clot can dislodge prematurely or not form properly which leaves the bone exposed to the oral environment. This is a slower healing process. Typically, dry socket happens about the 4th or 5th day after surgery and can be extremely painful.

Luckily, only a small percentage of patients, about 2%-5%, develop dry socket after tooth extraction.

Risk Factors for Dry Socket

  • Smoking or using Tobacco products including Vape with Nicotine
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Patients taking birth control pills
  • Diabetes that is not well controlled
  • Straw usage for the first 4-5 days after surgery
  • Forceful rinsing and spitting
  • Not following after-care instructions
  • Having Dry socket in the past
  • Traumatic extractions, especially wisdom teeth in the lower jaw
  • Previous infection such as periodontal disease or pericoronitis
  • Patients older than 30 years of age

Symptoms of Dry Socket

  • Severe throbbing pain that radiates through the jaw and to the ear 3-5 days after surgery on the same side of the surgery
  • Foul odors and taste
  • Exposure of bone in the extraction site; visible bone in the socket

Treatment for Dry Socket

  • Pain medications such as Ibuprofen or prescription pain meds
  • Placement of a dressing with medicament (done in the office)
  • Flush out the socket to remove irritating debris

Prevention of Dry Socket

  • Abstain from smoking, chewing tobacco, vaping after surgery
  • Rinse GENTLY with warm salt water or prescription mouthwash
  • Avoid sharp, hard foods as well as spicy foods
  • Avoid carbonated beverages
  • Good oral hygiene but avoid brushing the teeth in the immediate area of surgery for the first day after surgery

The good news is that a dry socket will heal over time. The average healing time is 7-10 days. This is the timeframe for new tissue to grow and heal over the exposed bone in the socket.

Written by Sarah Bong-Thakur, DDS, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon