What is Dry Socket? – Cause, Treatment & Prevention


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After the extraction of any tooth, there are some complications that appear such as infection, jaw stiffness, dry socket, nerve damage, etc. A dry socket forms within 2-3 days after permanent tooth extraction. It is a painful dental condition where the blood clot that develops over the bone and nerves post tooth removal become dislodged. Thus, exposing the extraction site to air, food, and germs. Dry socket is more pain painful condition than the extraction of teeth itself.

Dry socket can also form after wisdom teeth removal. Apart from severe pain, the bone will be visible in the socket and you might experience bad breath and bad taste.


People who are at high risk of getting this dental condition are those who smoke, chew tobacco, maintain poor oral hygiene, use straw, etc. after tooth extraction.

How is dry socket formed?

Dry socket formed when the blood clot at the site of the surgery fails to develop, or it dislodges or dissolves before the wound has healed. Dry socket leads to inflammation of bone also known as alveolar osteitis is a dental condition that occurs after the extraction of teeth.

Usually, a blood clot forms after the extraction of the tooth within 2-3 days. This blood clot acts as a protective unit for underlying nerves and alveolar bone. The blood clot also serves as the foundation of the healing tissue which will form bone and soft tissue over the clot.

The underlying bone and nerves are exposed due to the displacement of a blood clot that leads to very intense pain around the surgery site. The socket gets infected and may even accumulate food debris.

Why are older people at higher risk of developing dry socket?

Older Patients with impacted wisdom teeth or third molar have an increased risk of dry socket. As age advances, the jawbone becomes denser and has less blood supply available for bone tissue.

A dense jawbone is more brittle and hence increases the risk of a traumatic extraction, and less blood supply decreases the possibility of blood clot formation and proper healing.

Signs and symptoms of dry socket

  • Severe pain at the surgery site.
  • Visible bone in the socket.
  • Bad breath coming from your mouth.
  • Radiating pain from the site of surgery to ears, eye, cheek or neck of the same side.
  • Bad taste in your mouth.
  • The gum tissue immediately around the socket appears as inflamed.

What Causes dry socket?

The exact cause of the formation of dry socket is ambiguous, but there are several factors believed to be contributing to the formation of dry socket after extraction of teeth. These causes can be prevented by raising your awareness regarding oral hygiene.

  • Chewing tobacco and smoking after tooth extraction.
  • Tooth or gum infection around the extracted tooth.
  • Poor oral hygiene.
  • Intake of oral contraceptives also interferes with the healing process. (1)
  • Sucking through a straw, aggressive rinsing, or spitting may dislodge the blood clot.
  • Traumatic tooth extraction.


Diagnosis of dry socket depends on the patient’s symptoms, medical and dental history, and the clinical examination done by the dentist.

The pain and discomfort due to the extraction of teeth reduce over time but if pain increases or persists then this can be an indication of dry socket. The occurrence of a dry socket can be very painful. Visit your dentist if you suspect to have dry socket.


The treatment primarily aims to reduce the symptoms like pain and cleaning of the socket to prevent any further infection. First, the dentist will clean the socket with oral antibacterial rinse, and then an analgesic dressing is placed on the open socket.

This usually gives instant relief. The dressing is required to change at every few days in the treatment process. Within 5 to 6 days, the pain will alleviate, and healing occurs. You must keep visiting your dentist till the socket heals completely. (2)


You can easily prevent the formation of dry sockets after the extraction of the wisdom tooth or any other tooth by just following steps – (3)

  • Maintaining good oral hygiene.
  • Avoid smoking for at least 72 hours. (4)
  • Apply ice on the cheek over the area of surgery to reduce pain.
  • Avoid using a straw for a week. (5)
  • Eating soft foods, such as soup, mashed potatoes, and pudding.
  • Avoid carbonated drinks.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt water after eating.
  • Use medicated oral rinse.

Over to you

Though the dry socket is not a common condition after extraction of tooth but prevention reduces the chances of occurrence of dry sockets. Don’t smoke and practice good oral habits, as smoking can increase the risk of this condition.


After a few days of tooth extraction, the pain should reduce with time but if the pain increases then visit your dentist as soon as possible.


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