Dry Socket: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Think you’re suffering from a dry socket? It’s a painful dental condition when a tooth is pulled or extracted. Without a blood clot, the tooth removal site is unprotected, exposing the underlying bone and nerve endings in your empty tooth socket. On top of this, a blood clot’s protective layer also contains cells that are essential for the site to heal properly. 

Help with dry sockets

A dry socket is serious and should not be ignored. If you think you’re experiencing post-extraction complications, contact the dentist who removed your tooth or book an emergency appointment with our practice in Surrey here.

Over-the-counter pain relief, or any medicine you can buy to relieve the pain, will not be enough, and you’ll require the intervention of a dentist to relieve your pain.

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Symptoms of dry socket

  • – Throbbing pain in the gum or jaw
  • – Intense pain that feels like toothache
  • – Pain in the socket and along the nerves to the side of the face
  • – The socket becomes swollen and irritated
  • – Loss of the blood clot at the removal site (socket appears empty)
  • – You can see bone in the socket
  • – Pain spread to the ear, eye, temple or neck
  • – Bad breath or a foul odour coming from your mouth
  • – A bad taste in the mouth

What to avoid

To prevent dry sockets, we recommend finding a great oral surgeon first, ensuring you carry out good oral care, which will remove bacteria and stop smoking before the tooth is removed.

Following the surgery, do your best not to allow food particles to enter the socket, worsening the pain. To further aid the healing process, you can limit your activities after your surgery and rest, drink lots of water (avoid caffeine or alcohol) and only soft foods like yoghurts for the first day, being careful with hot and cold liquids. 

When practising your oral hygiene, gently rinse the mouth and brush the teeth, but avoid the extraction site for the first 24 hours. Following the first 24 hours, you should rinse your mouth with warm salt water several times a day for a week. 

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A dry socket is often a complication of wisdom tooth removal, where a blood clot fails to develop in the extracted tooth’s socket or when the blood clot becomes dislodged or disappears. Dry sockets usually happen within 3-5 days after surgery, and patients are usually given post-surgical instructions to avoid dry sockets from developing. 

Whilst the exact cause of dry sockets is still being researched, it’s believed to be caused by bacteria entering the socket or injury at the surgical site when the removal was challenging, which can be common in cases of irregular wisdom tooth development and position (impacted wisdom teeth).

The likelihood of developing a dry socket is higher when engaging in smoking and tobacco use, having gum disease or not following home care and oral hygiene instructions. And whilst the feeling of a dry socket is not nice, it rarely causes an infection or other serious complications. Rather, patients should expect the healing in the socket to be delayed, and the pain and discomfort should last longer than usual.


Treating a dry socket will focus mostly on reducing your symptoms.

  • – We can pack the socket with medicated gel, pastes and a dressing to provide quick pain relief, which might need to be changed regularly depending on your severe symptoms.
  • – Medication can also be prescribed to help manage your pain at home.
  • – We can also flush out the socket to remove any debris or food bits that can add to your pain or might contribute to a possible infection.


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