Dry socket sounds like something you’d hear on “Property Brothers.” It’s actually a painful dental condition that can occur when a pulled tooth doesn’t heal properly.

Here are the dental deets plus the best ways to prevent and treat dry socket.

purple teeth mold on a pink background; dry socketsShare on Pinterest
Yulia Reznikov/Getty Images

When a tooth is removed, a blood clot forms at the extraction site. The clot protects the underlying nerve endings and helps you heal. It also acts as a foundation for new soft tissue growth.

Dry socket (aka alveolar osteitis) happens when a blood clot doesn’t form. It can also happen if the blood clot dissolves or detaches before the wound fully heals. This can leave the underlying bone and nerves exposed. (Ouch.)

Dry socket symptoms usually appear 3 to 5 days after a tooth extraction.

We still don’t know the exact cause of dry socket. But it might be linked to:

  • bacterial infection in the socket
  • trauma due to a difficult extraction, like with an impacted wisdom tooth

Dry socket is the most common complication that happens after tooth extraction. A 2018 study suggested it can occur in up to 5 percent of all cases.

These factors can increase your risk of dry socket:

  • Smoking. Cigs and other tobacco products can delay the healing process and increase your risk of complications. Also, the sucking action of smoking can physically dislodge the blood clot.
  • Poor postop protocol. It’s 10/10 important you follow your doc’s aftercare routine. Don’t eat crunchy, hard foods or do rigorous activities right after surgery.
  • Gum or tooth infection. Infections around the extracted tooth area up your risk of dry socket.
  • A history of dry socket. Peeps who’ve had dry socket in the past are more likely to get one in the future.
  • Hormonal birth control. High levels of estrogen might alter your body’s healing process.

Here are some top tips to prevent dry socket:

  • Make sure you go to a tooth pulling pro. Do not try to yank a tooth out yourself.
  • Don’t smoke for at least 48 hours after your surgery. But obvi, smoking is bad in general, m’kay.
  • Don’t use a straw until you’re totally healed. The sucking action can dislodge the blood clot.
  • Ask your doc if any of your current medications interfere with the healing process. Common culprits include blood thinners that make it harder for your blood to clot.
  • The American Dental Association (ADA) suggests you keep a wound dressing like gauze on the extraction site for 30 to 45 minutes after the procedure.

Dry sockets can be hella hellish. But they rarely result in serious complications.

Still, you should be careful if you have an infection. If left unchecked, a dry socket infection can lead to a chronic bone infection called osteomyelitis.

Look out for infection signs like:

  • pus
  • fever
  • oozing
  • inflammation

Dry socket will usually heal on its own. You should def call your doctor if the pain becomes severe, though.

While you wait to see your dentist, here are some options for managing your dry socket at home.

  • Manage the pain. Ask your doc which meds are best for you. You can also use a cold compress the day after the extraction to reduce swelling. After that, use a warm pack to reduce discomfort.
  • Take it easy. Avoid any activities that can irritate your dry socket. This includes high-impact sports, exercise, or makeout seshes.
  • Drink carefully. Your wound will be hella sensitive to super hot or cold temps. So stick to room-temp bevvies. You should also avoid alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated drinks. Reminder: no straws!
  • Favor soft foods. Eat soft foods for the first few days or so. Only start to eat semi-soft foods when the pain is gone.
  • Chew smart. Chew on the side of your mouth without dry socket. If both sides of your mouth are affected, stick to soft foods until you heal.
  • Keep it clean. Gently rinse your mouth with a saline solution or an antiseptic rinse. Be sure to talk with your doc before you get your gargle on. Some brands are too harsh for post-procedure cleansing.

Dry socket is a condition that can happen after you get a tooth pulled. It happens when the blood clot in the tooth cavity doesn’t form or gets dislodged.

Let your doctor know if your pain becomes severe. They can give you some treatments to manage your discomfort until it heals. You should also hit them up if you have any signs of an infection.