How to Avoid Dry Socket

A young girl is having pain in her tooth


As if you didn’t have enough to worry about when having a permanent tooth extracted, there’s also the potential of developing “dry socket” or alveolar osteitis afterward. What is this uncomfortable-sounding condition and is there anything that can prevent it happening? Let’s find out.

What Exactly is Dry Socket?

When you have a tooth extracted, a blood clot develops over the hole (empty tooth socket), allowing your gum to heal and protecting the nerves and bone underneath. If this clot does not form, or is knocked out or dislodged, this is known as alveolar osteitis or dry socket. You’ll know if you have dry socket because it can be very painful and if you look in a mirror, you may be able to see white bone instead of a dark clot or scab.

How Do I Know If I Have Dry Socket?

Although dry socket is not a very common condition overall, it is the most common complication you can get after an adult tooth or wisdom tooth removal. Following your dental extraction, be on the lookout for the following symptoms which might indicate dry socket:

  • Severe pain at the socket site between 1 and 3 days following your tooth extraction
  • Radiating pain from the extraction site to your neck, ear or eye on that side
  • Very bad breath
  • An unpleasant taste in your mouth


Is Dry Socket Dangerous?

Dry socket is painful and if left untreated or cared for, it can potentially lead to an infection. This is rare, however, and most cases of dry socket can be treated with common pain relievers until the area heals on its own. If you are experiencing dry socket after having a tooth pulled, contact your dentist for further advice.

Treatments for Dry Socket

If you have bad pain after a tooth extraction, let your dentist know. They may ask you to come in for some treatment to help your dry socket heal. This might include:

  • Flushing any bits of food debris and bacteria out of the socket
  • Packing the socket with a dressing or a medicated paste or gel to help with pain relief
  • Prescribing pain medication if necessary
  • Providing tools for flushing the affected socket at home


When you are at home, the recommended treatments for dry socket are:

  • Avoid smoking
  • Use saline rinses daily
  • Take pain medication as required
  • Do not brush the dry socket area
  • Don’t use a straw as this may dislodge any dressings or clots that begin to form


If it’s being looked after, your dry socket symptoms should resolve within a few days.

How to Prevent Dry Socket

It’s not always possible to prevent dry socket from occurring and people who have had it before are more likely to have it happen again. There are a few steps you can take, however, to give yourself the best chance of healing quickly after having a tooth pulled:

Do not smoke

Try to stop smoking in the run up to a tooth extraction. Smoking increases your risk of developing dry socket, as well as having a host of other negative health effects.

Improve your oral health

If the tooth being removed is decayed or there is gum disease in that area, this will give you a higher chance of getting dry socket.

Check your medications

Some medications can affect blood clotting, leading to a higher risk of dry socket. Talk to your dentist if you’re taking any sort of medicine.

Look after yourself

Follow any post-extraction healing guidelines to give yourself the best chance of a quick and successful recovery.

If you’ve developed dry socket after having a tooth pulled, contact your dentist for help and possible further treatment. Patients in Missoula, MT and surrounding areas can rely on Discovery Dental Group for high quality dental care in a friendly setting.