What is a dry socket?

What is a dry socket

Dry socket is a condition called alveolar osteitis. It occurs after a tooth extraction (whether in preparation for dental implants or for wisdom tooth removal) and is considered a postoperative complication.

Typically after a tooth is extracted, a blood clot forms in its place to protect the bone and nerve. When that clot moves or dissolves prematurely, it can leave the bone and nerve exposed which causes intense pain and possibly infection.

The chances of developing dry socket are low for most people, around 2 percent; but the risks are higher when removing lower wisdom teeth. This is because the area has a lower blood supply and because food and drink debris tend to settle on your lower teeth.


Pain, pain and more pain! The biggest sign that you might have dry socket is the intense pain and sensitivity you will feel at the extraction site. Patients usually notice it most as sensitivity when eating or drinking, or when air enters your mouth. Others feel the pain radiating to their ear or the side of their face where the socket is located.

Some experience a foul odor or bacteria emanating from that site, signifying the presence of bacteria and infection.

Typically these symptoms do not appear until a few days after the surgery, as the blood clot will take a few days to form before becoming dislodged.

You can also look at the extraction site and if there is not a red spot but rather a white, dry looking space, you may have a dry socket.

When you begin to feel this pain it is important that you call our office ASAP so we can have one of our dentists examine you and get you the help you need.


Dry socket can happen to anyone, but studies have shown that the following risk factors can increase the chances of developing dry socket.

    Logically speaking, smoking complicates almost any dental procedure because it introduces chemicals into your mouth that can disrupt the normal healing process. The rate of having dry socket after an extraction is higher for those who smoke.
    The Journal of the American Dental Association reports that women using the pill are almost twice as likely to develop a dry socket. The pill elevates a woman’s estrogen levels, which can inhibit clotting.
    According to research done by Texas A&M University, eating or drinking carbonated beverages and/or using a straw soon after a tooth extraction can also increase your chances of dry socket.


Dry sockets usually last 7 to 10 days. During this period of time, the healing process starts over and works to cover and protect the exposed bone and nerve at the extraction site. While nothing can be done to speed up the process, pain medication can be helpful in the interim.

We can also apply a dressing to help protect the exposed extraction site. We will sterilize the extraction site and then apply a special medicated paste and gauze. You will change the dressing every 24 hours.


During the month of May, we will be giving non-dental insurance patients $100 off any major procedure (such as an extraction). This promotion is specifically for our patients who self-pay and do not go through a dental insurance provider. Call our office today to schedule an appointment!

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