Dry Sockets

Dry Socket (alveolar osteitis) is a temporary dental condition that can occur after an extraction of a single tooth or multiple teeth.  A dry socket occurs when the blood clot at the site of a tooth extraction becomes dislodged or dissolves exposing the underlying bone and nerves causing discomfort.

Dry Socket is one of the most common complications following tooth extractions, especially the removal of lower wisdom teeth.  They develop in about 5% of tooth extraction cases.  When it occurs, a dry socket usually becomes symptomatic about three days after the extraction.  It is not an infection requiring antibiotics but significant discomfort is a hallmark.


  • Severe pain within a few days following a tooth extraction
  • Loss of the blood clot at the extraction site, which may look empty (dry socket)
  • Visible bone in the socket
  • Bad breath or a foul taste
  • Pain that radiates from the extraction site toward the ear or front teeth

Risk Factors

  • Smoking
  • Taking oral contraceptives (Birth Control Pills)
  • Not following post operative instructions ie. aggressive rinsing, spitting, drinking through a straw or vigorous exercise
  • Poor oral health
  • Past history of a dry socket


The treatment of a dry socket is geared toward reducing the pain.  This generally includes irrigation of the extraction site followed by placing a medicated dressing into the socket.  The dressing is changed every few days until symptoms have resolved.

Once the extraction site has been irrigated and the dressing placed, the pain should subside within an hour.  Complete healing usually takes between 1 to 2 weeks.