Is Dry Socket A Dental Emergency And How Serious Is It?Is Dry Socket A Dental Emergency And How Serious Is It?

Medically known as alveolar osteitis, dry socket is a dental emergency that can happen on someone following a permanent tooth removal. Dry socket occurs when a blood clot dislodges, dissolves or fails to develop before the wound can heal. The absence of a protective layer exposes the bone and nerves, leading to intense pain on and around the extraction site. Also, dry sockets can collect food within and cause further irritation. This complication can happen on any tooth, but it is more common with the extraction or wisdom teeth or third molars.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Bad breath, unpleasant taste or foul odor from the mouth
  • Pain radiating from the socket to the ear, neck, eye or temple
  • Partial or total loss of blood clot at extraction site
  • Severe pain days after the extraction
  • Visible bone in the socket


The exact cause of dry socket is not really known, but many experts believe that it mostly steps from surgical trauma or bacterial infection from a difficult extraction process. Still, there are several known factors that can make a person more prone to developing dry socket. Listed below are the top five factors determined.

  • Drinking through straws and smoking – The simple act of sucking can dislodge a blood clot.
  • History of dry sockets – Those who have had dry socket before are more likely to get one again.
  • Oral contraceptives – Normal healing processes can be disrupted by high estrogen levels, increasing the risk of dry socket.
  • Tobacco use – Chemicals found in tobacco can prevent or slow the healing process; these chemicals can also contaminate the wound.
  • Tooth or gum infections – current or previous infections around the extracted tooth increases risk of dry socket.


Dry socket can be prevented by following the instructions of the dentist following an extraction. It is also important to practice good oral habits and refrain from drinking from straws for a while. Those who smoke or use other tobacco products should stop until the wound heals. If this cannot be prevented, try your best to lightly suck to reduce any risk.

Because developing dry socket can place your mouth at a higher risk at harboring dangerous bacteria, it is important that you contact your dentist as soon as you notice a problem in your extraction site. Just like most health problems, even the littlest delay can also give rise to complications and increase your risk for developing more serious infections.


  • Flushing of empty socket to remove food and other debris to prevent infection
  • Filling of socket with medicated gel or paste to promote healing and relieve pain
  • Taking pain medications to manage severe pain and aid in sleeping

Aside from pain relief, it is important for patients to practice self-care to prevent debris from accumulating and promote healing. Dentists will mostly provide plastic syringes with curved tips for this purpose, coupled with salt or prescription rinse water. Cleaning should continuously be done until the dry socket heals. Once it sets in, allow at least 7 days for the healing process to start and cover the exposed bone of the socket. Keep up with your dental appointments even when you start to feel better.

by James Franklin
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