Simple Steps To Better Dental Health
space placeholder
Featuring consumer information from Columbia School of Dental & Oral Surgery
Oral Health Made Simple: Your Prescription For Knowledge
Small BoxAll About Cavities
Small BoxBrushing and Flossing
Small BoxFluoride
Small BoxMouth-Healthy Eating
Small BoxSealants
Small BoxTaking Care of Your Teeth
Small BoxTobacco
Small BoxYour Dental Visit
Small BoxMORE
Small BoxBad Breath
Small BoxCavities
Small BoxCold Sores
Small BoxDry Mouth
Small BoxImpacted Tooth
Small BoxSensitive Teeth
Small BoxTMJ
Small BoxTooth Discoloration
Small BoxMORE
Small BoxCrowns
Small BoxDentures
Small BoxFillings: The Basics
Small BoxGum Surgery
Small BoxImplants
Small BoxRoot Canal Treatment
Small BoxScaling and Root Planing
Small BoxWhitening
Small BoxMORE
Small BoxControlling Pain
Small BoxCosmetic Dentistry
Small BoxEmergencies
Small BoxFill, Repair, Replace
Small BoxKids And Teens
Small BoxOral Health and Your Body
Small BoxOrthodontics
Small BoxPeriodontics
Small BoxSeniors
Small BoxMORE
Step 1 Prevent ProblemsSimplestepsPrevent Problems
Step 2 Understand ConditionsSimplestepsUnderstand Conditions
Step 3 Explore TreatmentsSimplestepsExplore Treatments

go to Interactive Tools go to Parents' Guide go to Dental Drugs go to Ask The Dentist

Back to Conditions
New reviewed by Columbia banner
Dry Socket (Alveolar Osteitis)

space placeholder
space placeholder.What Is It?.
space placeholder.Symptoms.
space placeholder.Diagnosis.
space placeholder.Expected Duration.
space placeholder.Prevention.
space placeholder.Treatment.
space placeholder.When To Call a Professional.
space placeholder.Prognosis.
space placeholder.Additional Info.
space placeholder..
space placeholder

space placeholder
space placeholder.What Is It?
space placeholder

Dry socket is a problem that can occur after you have a tooth extracted. Usually, after a tooth is removed, a blood clot forms in the socket, or hole where the tooth was. As the area heals, bone and gum tissue gradually replace this blood clot. If the blood clot gets washed away, the bone is exposed to air and food. This is called a dry socket. It can be extremely painful.

Dry socket is more common in people with diabetes, smokers and women who take birth control pills. It occurs after 3% to 5% of tooth extractions. It is more common after the removal of premolar or molar teeth, especially impacted wisdom teeth (third molars) in the lower jaw.

space placeholder
space placeholder.Symptoms
space placeholder

Dry socket causes pain in and around the site where the tooth was extracted. The pain usually starts on the third or fourth day after surgery and can spread out from the site. Many people who have lower back teeth removed feel pain in the ear on that side. The pain is severe. Over-the-counter painkillers usually can't relieve it. Dry socket can also cause bad breath and a bad taste in the mouth.

space placeholder
space placeholder.Diagnosis
space placeholder

Your dentist will make a diagnosis based on your symptoms and a clinical examination. The dentist will examine the extraction site to see if bone is exposed. You may need to have an X-ray taken to show whether fragments of the tooth or bone are in the socket.

space placeholder
space placeholder.Expected Duration
space placeholder

A dry socket can last from one to several weeks. Treatment can stop or significantly reduce the pain during this time. A tooth socket that does not heal after a few weeks of treatment may be caused by other medical conditions.

space placeholder
space placeholder.Prevention
space placeholder

Several steps can help to decrease your risk of dry socket:

  • Practice good oral hygiene.
  • Have your teeth cleaned before an extraction.
  • Do not drink through a straw or spit frequently after an extraction. This can cause the blood clot to dislodge.
  • If you smoke, try to stop before surgery. If that is too difficult, stop the day of the surgery. Also, don't smoke for at least two weeks afterward. Smoking can slow healing and cause infections.
  • If you are using birth control pills, try to schedule the surgery during days 23 to 28 of your tablet cycle.
  • Avoid vigorously rinsing your mouth for the first 24 hours after the surgery to allow the blood clot to become stable. Brush and rinse gently for the next week. Your dentist may prescribe an antibacterial rinse to be used before and after surgery.
  • Follow all of your doctor's instructions before and after your surgery.
space placeholder
space placeholder.Treatment
space placeholder

Your dentist will rinse the socket with a saline solution or an antiseptic solution to dislodge any debris in the socket. You may receive an injection of local anesthesia to minimize any discomfort. Then the socket will be packed with a medicated dressing or paste. You may need to see your doctor daily or every few days until the problem is resolved.

Some dressings melt on their own. Others need to be changed or removed. Some dentists use a dissolvable sponge soaked with an antibiotic solution. You may also be prescribed pain relievers or told to take over-the-counter medicine for pain relief.

Once your dentist decides that dressings are no longer required, he or she will explain how to rinse the socket.

space placeholder
space placeholder.When To Call a Professional
space placeholder

Call your dentist if you have severe pain that starts a few days after you have a tooth pulled and that seems to come from that site.

space placeholder
space placeholder.Prognosis
space placeholder

Once treatment is started, the pain subsides quickly and the socket usually heals completely within a few weeks. Most patients require placement of only one or two dressings.

space placeholder
space placeholder.Additional Info
space placeholder

American Association of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons
9700 West Bryn Mawr Ave.
Rosemont, IL 60018-5701
Phone: 847-678-6200
Toll-free: 1-800-822-6637

printer friendly format option iconPrinter-friendly version     
printer friendly format option iconPrinter-friendly version
Powered by Aetna Dental Plans

© 2002-2016 Aetna, Inc. All rights reserved. All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult your physician before starting a new fitness regimen. Use of this online service is subject to the disclaimer and the terms and conditions. External website links provided on this site are meant for convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement. These external links open in a different window.