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What is Dry Socket?
…And how to prevent this painful condition

What is dry socket?

A painful condition that sometimes occurs after a tooth extraction. Fortunately only 2-5% of all tooth extractions end this way.

Though not ideal and no fun at all, dry socket is treatable and everyone recovers but never forgets the experience.

When a tooth is removed, a blood clot forms in the extraction site. 

The blood clot is there to promote healing of the injury, and protect exposed gum tissue, nerves and bone.

A dry socket happens when the blood clot becomes dislodged and comes out.  You may or may not notice it coming out.  Most likely you won't.

Chances are, you won't ever experience a dry socket.  But if you do, your dentist can help by placing a medicated dressing in the socket.

The dressing may have to be changed a few times until the pain is gone.  More about dry socket treatment here.

Some dry sockets are unavoidable but there are a few things you can do to prevent one.

Things to avoid...

Smoking ~ Wait to smoke after having a tooth extraction. Waiting 48-72 hours is best, but the longer the better.

Drinking from a straw causes suction in your mouth and should be avoided.

Vigorous rinsing will dislodge the clot but frequent gentle rinsing 24 hours after the procedure is recommended. Some dentists recommend using a Chlorhexidine rinse for a few days after the extraction.


Touching the area ~ Let the injury heal undisturbed for the first 24 hours, then follow your dentist's directions for gentle rinsing or irrigating the extraction site.

Don't let anything touch or disturb the area for a full 24 hours.  After that you can gently rinse but should still be really careful, eat soft foods and don't brush or  floss and try to protect the area.

Other risk factors...

  • Age
  • Taking birth control pills
  • A difficult extraction
  • A history of dry socket

These are risk factors that you have less control over but knowing they exist should add motivation to follow post-op instructions extra carefully.  

More about dry socket here.

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