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Understanding Dry Sockets

Written by Crest Hill Family Dental on . Posted in Blog

From the removal of impacted wisdom teeth to taking out an infected tooth to save your oral health, extractions can be beneficial. Of course, extractions do require small incisions in the gum tissue that makes the procedure a bit invasive. Therefore, it is important to follow your dentist’s instructions to heal properly after an extraction.

Unfortunately, dry sockets occur in an estimated two to five percent of extractions. Even though dry sockets are common, especially after the extraction of wisdom teeth, most people do not fully understand this problem. With this guide and your dentist’s help, you will have a full understanding of dry sockets.


To extract a tooth, your dentist will make incisions in the gum tissue, which help remove the tooth and roots from the socket/jawbone. The incision is sealed to prevent bleeding and to keep food and bacteria from building up inside the gum tissue. A blood clot will quickly form over the incision, as well.

The formation of a blood clot stops the incision from bleeding while protecting the underlying nerves and jawbone. However, there are instances where the blood clot may loosen, break off, or dissolve.

Without a full blood clot over the incision, food residue, bacteria, and even air can seep into the incision, affecting the nerves and jawbone, and result in a dry socket.


Every patient is different, but if you experience pain one to three days after the extraction, you most likely have a dry socket. It is important to remember that some light pain and swelling is normal after an extraction. However, if the pain is so severe, that it is radiating through the entire mouth, head, ears, eyes, temple, and neck, consult your dentist immediately.

Many patients will be able to see that the blood clot has come loose or dissolved off the incision site. You may even be able to see the actual underlying bone through the incision, too, which will give the appearance of a dry socket.

An unappealing taste in the mouth and foul breath are also signs of a dry socket.


Help is available if you are dealing with the pain of a dry socket.

Your dentist will most likely clean the extraction site fully, removing any food debris and bacteria, which will help reduce your risk of an infection.

After cleaning, medicated gauze will be placed on the extraction site. This gauze should be changed periodically at home to help the blood clot form and remain in place during your recovery.

Over-the-counter pain relievers are usually sufficient for easing the discomfort of a dry socket. Your dentist may also prescribe antibiotics if an infection has started to set in.


Prevention is your best weapon against a dry socket. After the extraction, make sure to hold the gauze down securely over the incision site. You should bite down gently, placing pressure on the incision, which stops the bleeding and helps the blood clot form.

Also, avoid any activity or habit that would cause the blood clot to dissolve or come loose.

For example, do not smoke or suck on a straw for at least a week after the extraction, according to Healthline. Also, avoid consuming foods that break apart into small particles or have a chewy/sticky consistency, such as nuts or chewing gum. Finally, avoid excessively-hot beverages and liquids, such as hot tea, coffee, and soup, since the hot liquids could dissolve the blood clot.

Dry sockets may seem small, but they can lead to big problems if not addressed. For help with a dry socket or another dental issue, contact Crest Hill Family Dental today.

Crest Hill
Family Dental

2410 W Caton Farm Rd, Suite C
Crest Hill, IL 60403
Phone: (815) 439-1111
Fax: (815) 439-9709

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