Skip to main content

Dry Socket

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

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 jawbone. Dry socket usually lasts only a few days. You may have a more serious condition if signs and symptoms continue for a week.

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 mouth
  • A bad odor coming from your mouth

What increases my 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
  • Age 20 to 40 years

How is dry socket treated?

  • Irrigation is used to clean your dry socket and help remove dead tissue or food. Ask your healthcare provider how to use a syringe to irrigate your dry socket.
  • Packing may be used to cover your exposed bone and prevent irritation and pain. It also keeps food from entering the dry socket.
  • NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Antibiotics may be prescribed if you have an infection.

What can I do to manage or prevent dry socket?

  • Apply ice to your 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 jaw. Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes every hour, or as directed.
  • Rinse with a chlorhexidine mouthwash before and after your tooth removal. Ask your healthcare provider where you can find an oral solution with chlorhexidine.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine in cigarettes and cigars can prevent your blood from clotting properly. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your swelling is so bad that you cannot close or open your mouth.
  • You have trouble breathing.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You continue to have pain even after you take pain medicine.
  • Your signs or symptoms continue longer than 1 week.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Learn more about Dry Socket

Treatment options

Care guides

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.