What is dry socket?

Dry socket (alveolar osteitis) can occur in adults after having a tooth removed. When your dentist or oral surgeon removes a tooth, a blood clot forms in the socket (hole in the bone where the tooth was). Dry socket happens when that blood clot does not develop or dislodges (moves). Without the clot, the bone and nerves are exposed to the air.

Dry socket can be painful and make it hard for the area to heal. It happens more often in the lower teeth than those in the top of the mouth. Research shows women are slightly more likely than men to develop dry socket, likely due to estrogen.

What causes dry socket?

Dentists do not know what causes dry socket. Risk factors associated with it include:

  • A difficult tooth extraction (removal)
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Not following mouth care instructions after the tooth is removed
  • Using tobacco products
  • Taking oral contraceptives (birth control)
  • Drinking through a straw after the tooth is removed

What are the symptoms of dry socket?

Pain in the mouth and face is the most common symptom of dry socket. It can be mild, but it is often severe. Other symptoms include:

  • Tenderness
  • Foul odor

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