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Dry Socket in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 6, 2023.

What is dry socket?

Dry socket is a painful condition that develops 1 to 3 days after a permanent tooth has been removed. It happens when the blood clot at the site dissolves and exposes your child's jawbone. Dry socket usually lasts only a few days. Your child may have a more serious condition if signs and symptoms continue for a week. Dry socket is rare in children younger than 12 years.

What are the signs and symptoms of dry socket?

  • Severe, constant pain that is most intense 3 days after the tooth was removed
  • Swollen, red, and tender gums
  • A bad taste in your child's mouth
  • A bad odor coming from your child's mouth

What increases my child's risk for dry socket?

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • A difficult tooth removal, or having 1 tooth removed
  • Removal of a back tooth, such as a wisdom tooth
  • Smoking
  • Being female or using birth control pills

How is dry socket treated?

  • Irrigation cleans the dry socket and helps remove dead tissue or food. Ask your child's healthcare provider how to use a syringe to irrigate the dry socket.
  • Packing may be used to cover your child's exposed bone and prevent irritation and pain. It will also keep food from entering the dry socket.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him or her. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children younger than 6 months without direction from a healthcare provider.
  • Antibiotics may be prescribed if your child has an infection.

What can I do to help my child manage or prevent dry socket?

  • Apply ice to your child's jaw. Ice helps relieve pain and swelling. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Wrap a towel around it before you apply it to your child's jaw. Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes every hour, or as directed.
  • Have your child rinse with a chlorhexidine mouthwash before and after tooth removal. Ask your child's healthcare provider where you can find an oral solution with chlorhexidine.
  • Talk to your adolescent about not smoking. Nicotine in cigarettes and cigars can prevent your adolescent's blood from clotting properly. Ask his or her healthcare provider for information if he or she currently smokes and needs help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your adolescent's healthcare provider before he or she uses these products.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child's swelling is so bad that he or she cannot close or open his or her mouth.
  • Your child has trouble breathing.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child continues to have pain even after he or she takes pain medicine.
  • Your child's signs or symptoms continue longer than 1 week.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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