Dry Socket Dentistry Guide: Warning Signs, Causes And Recovery

Woman suffering with tooth pain from dry socket

Dry socket can be a painful dental problem that often requires swift treatment from a qualified professional. It develops following a tooth extraction when blood clots fail to form immediately after the tooth has been removed. In some instances, a dry socket might occur when a blood clot is dislodged from the vacant area following tooth extraction. This ultimately leaves the underlying nerves in the gum exposed, which can be painful and even lead to very serious infections if left untreated.

What are the symptoms of dry socket?

Some of the most common signs of dry socket include the following:

  • Severe, sharp pain which starts within days of tooth extraction.
  • Empty space at the site of the tooth extraction due to total or partial blood clot loss.
  • Visible bone within the empty socket where an extraction has taken place.
  • Dull pain radiates from the empty tooth socket to the eyes, ears, neck or temples.
  • Bad breath.
  • An unpleasant taste in the mouth.

If you experience any of these warning signs after having a tooth extracted, you should consult with a qualified dental healthcare professional as soon as possible.

How likely am I to get dry socket?

A South African study published in 2016 found that less than 2% of patients who had undergone tooth extraction went on to develop dry socket. While dry socket is a relatively rare condition, if you have recently had a tooth removed you should be vigilant and know the warning signs to look out for. You should also be aware that there are certain risk factors that can increase the odds of dry socket developing.

What are the main causes of dry socket?

Following a tooth extraction, these risk factors can increase your likelihood of developing dry socket:

  • Nicotine use: the chemicals contained in cigarettes can affect the speed at which the body heals, and can even contaminate the site of the wound. The sucking action involved in the inhalation of cigarettes or vapes could also dislodge a blood clot in the mouth.
  • Oral contraceptives: birth control medication can cause elevated oestrogen levels which can disrupt the healing process.
  • Poor aftercare: patients who fail to follow post-extraction self-care guidelines are more likely to develop dry socket.
  • Previous dry socket occurrences: if you’ve had a tooth removed and developed a dry socket in the past, you are at an increased risk of experiencing the condition again.
  • Infections: previous or current infections at the site of extraction could increase the risk of developing a dry socket.

Dry socket recovery: what treatments are available?

To treat dry socket, your dentist will try to alleviate symptoms while the socket heals. This could involve taking painkillers in addition to your dentist gently irrigating out the socket to clear away any food debris which could cause infection. Your dentist may also place medicated analgesic packing within the socket. This helps to shield any exposed bone, and may even be coated with a special dry socket paste. This medicated packing will need to be changed every few days until the socket has healed.

What to do if you think you have dry socket

If you’re in Nelson Bay, have recently had a tooth extracted and think you might be developing a dry socket, don’t delay. Contact Tomaree Dentistry to ensure the condition is treated safely, to protect your dental health and potentially avoid a more serious infection.


Dentist Dr John Cropley

Dr John Cropley

John is the principal dentist at Tomaree Dentistry in Nelson Bay. He graduated in Dentistry from the University of Adelaide and is a long-standing member of the Australian Dental Association (ADA). He is known for his gentle, calm and caring manner and offers services in prevention-based dentistry, emergency care, cosmetic dentistry and restorative dentistry including endodontics.

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