Dry socket is a painful condition that can occur after tooth extraction. It happens when the blood clot that covers your wound becomes dislodged or doesn’t fully form. Dry socket treatments include pain relievers and placing medicated gauze over the affected area. Dry sockets usually last about one week.
Dry socket (alveolar osteitis) can happen after tooth extraction. When your dentist or oral surgeon removes a tooth, a blood clot forms in the socket (a hole in the bone where your tooth was). Dry socket happens when that blood clot dislodges (moves) or doesn’t form at all. Without the clot, your bone and nerves become exposed, leading to pain and slower healing.
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Worsening pain in your mouth and face two to three days after the extraction is the most common symptom of dry socket. Discomfort can be mild, but it’s often severe. Other dry socket symptoms include:
Most cases of dry socket occur following a particularly difficult tooth removal. But there are risk factors that increase your chances of getting a dry socket:
Dentists typically suspect dry socket when a person experiences severe pain following a tooth extraction. They can confirm the diagnosis by looking at the spot where your tooth used to be.
In some cases, your dentist might take dental X-rays to make sure there are no tooth fragments stuck in your jaw.
Easing pain and discomfort is the main goal of dry socket treatment. Your dentist may:
Not always. But if your dentist suspects you have an infection, they’ll likely prescribe a course of antibiotics. Infected dry sockets are rare, but they can happen.
Yes, in most cases a dry socket will heal on its own. However, because most people experience moderate to severe dry socket pain, seeing your dentist for prompt treatment can help ease discomfort sooner.
You can’t always prevent a dry socket. But there are things you can do to reduce your risk:
With proper care, a dry socket usually heals in seven to 10 days. In that time, new tissue grows and covers the exposed socket. Regular brushing and flossing help keep your mouth healthy and reduce your risk of infection.
You’re most likely to get dry socket within three days after tooth extraction. If you haven’t developed dry socket by day five, you’re probably in the clear.
You should let your dentist know if you have:
If you can’t get in touch with the provider who did the extraction, head to your nearest urgent care facility or emergency room.
A dry socket looks like an empty hole in your gums with a whiteish layer at the bottom. The white color you see is exposed bone.
It’s important to know the difference between a dry socket and a blood clot. Blood clots are a good thing. They help promote healing.
After your extraction, you should develop a blood clot in the socket (hole) that’s left behind. It’ll look like a dark-colored scab. If you see a blood clot, leave it alone and don’t try to remove it. It’ll help protect the extraction site.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you recently had a tooth removed and are experiencing severe discomfort, it could be dry socket. This condition can be extremely painful, so it’s important to see your dentist at the first sign of trouble. The good news is that a dry socket usually heals in about one week. In the meantime, ask your dentist how to manage your symptoms.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/28/2023.
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