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What is Dry Socket and How to Prevent It

Dry socket is a condition that occurs as a complication of tooth removal. It can be excruciating for the gums and nerves in the mouth.

What Is It?

Dry socket occurs after a tooth is removed, and is most common after wisdom tooth extraction. Primarily, it happens when the blood around the extraction site does not clot, and instead dissolves, or the clot dislodges too early, failing to heal the wound. This results in nerve pain throughout the side of your mouth, pain at the site of extraction, and gum pain.

Here are a few of the primary symptoms that you should be aware of:

  • Bad breath/an unpleasant smell is coming from your mouth
  • Intense pain after tooth extraction
  • The bone in the socket is visible
  • Pain radiating throughout the whole side of your face that the removal was on

Treating and Managing Dry Socket

There are many ways to work to manage dry socket. First, it is recommended to see your dentist or surgeon who can recommend solutions specialized for you. They can also make sure there are no further complications or signs of infection.

Options for managing dry socket, both at home and in the dentist's office, include:

  • Applying a cold compress to reduce inflammation, and then applying heat for pain relief
  • Be sure to gently brush and/or irrigate around the dry socket to keep it clean
  • Avoid consuming acidic or spicy foods, as they can cause further irritation
  • Avoid carbonated drinks
  • Flush the dry socket with a saline solution to expedite healing

If the pain is unbearable or you suspect you may have an infection, it is recommended to contact your dentist immediately to get an antibiotic. The first signs of an infected dry socket include fever, socket discharge, and redness around the socket.

Prevention Tactics

There are steps you can take to lower your risk of developing dry socket after your tooth extraction.

  • Get plenty of rest after your tooth extraction. This will put your body in the best place to recover.
  • Only eat soft foods and avoid carbonation and alcohol to prevent irritation.
  • Don’t use straws, as the suction can cause the clot to dislodge.
  • Stop smoking or using other tobacco products, as this will increase your risk and slow the healing process.
  • Be aware if you are already on medication that can reduce clotting and discuss that with your dentist.


Although dry socket can be extremely painful, there are ways to work toward prevention. If it does happen to occur in your mouth, it is necessary to have the knowledge and tools to recognize it and pursue treatment.