Symptoms and Signs of Dry Socket

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2022

Doctor's Notes on Dry Socket

A dry socket is a complication of tooth extraction when the tooth socket loses the blood clot that forms after tooth extraction, exposing the bone to the mouth environment. Signs and symptoms of a dry socket start about 3-4 days after tooth extraction. Moderate to severe pain often radiates to the ear. Patients complain of pain being throbbing or as intense, dull, aching pain, and some complain of a bad taste or odor in their mouth. Pain may last from 10-40 days. Some patients can have pus production at the site.

The cause of dry socket is the early loss of the protective blood clot over the bone where the tooth was extracted. The exposed bone is very sensitive to inflammation from exposure to the environment; the clot covers the bone and protects it. Loss of the protective blood clot may be due to infection, inflammation, traumatic tooth loss or extraction, and bone/tooth fragments remaining after tooth loss. Smoking is a risk factor.

What Are the Treatments for a Dry Socket?

The treatments for dry socket are not complicated and include the following:

  • Control pain with NSAIDs like aspirin (not for use in children) or ibuprofen (Advil).
  • Some patients require short-term prescription pain medicine for pain control.
  • A dental professional will clean the tooth socket then fill the socket with a medicated dressing or paste (this procedure may need to be repeated every few days).
  • Antibiotics may be prescribed.
  • Your dentist may also recommend that you rinse the area daily with a mouthwash or saltwater rinse.

When your socket begins to heal, your pain will lessen as will the need for pain medication.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.