Dry socket

Dry socket is a painful inflammation that can develop in the open tooth socket of the jawbone after a tooth has been removed (extracted). Dry sockets often develop after an extraction and are more common after extraction of third molars (wisdom teeth).1

Dry socket develops when the blood clot at the site of surgery disintegrates or is dislodged. This condition can cause severe pain extending up to the ear. The socket may smell bad. The pain from a dry socket may last for several days.

Women tend to get dry socket more than men. This may be linked to the hormone estrogen. Women who decide to have their wisdom teeth removed should try to schedule the surgery for the end of their menstrual cycle (usually days 23 through 28). There seems to be less risk of dry socket during this time.2

Dry socket usually is treated by a dentist or oral surgeon, who may place a special medicated gauze or paste into the socket and prescribe an antibiotic. He or she may also have you take pain medicine.

To prevent a dry socket, be sure to follow your dentist's instructions, which may include the following:

  • Do not smoke or suck through straws.
  • Do not rinse your mouth or disturb the socket area for at least 24 hours.
  • Change cotton gauzes over the socket as they become soaked with blood.

Call your dentist or oral surgeon if you have severe pain around the area where your tooth was removed a few days after your surgery.

Citations

  1. Macleod DK (2007). Common problems of the teeth and oral cavity. In NH Fiebach et al., eds., Principles of Ambulatory Medicine, 7th ed., pp. 1864–1878. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
  2. Academy of General Dentistry (2005). Check Menstrual Calendar for Tooth Extraction. Available online: http://www.agd.org/consumer/topics/wisdom/drysocket.asp.

Last Updated: September 8, 2009

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