Dry socket is a common complication that can occur after having a tooth pulled. It occurs when the blood clot that forms at the extraction site becomes dislodged, exposing the bone and nerves below, leading to increased pain, swelling, and difficulty eating. 

What Causes Dry Socket?

Dry socket is caused by several factors, including:

  • Trauma to the area – This can occur if the tooth is extracted forcefully or if there is significant bleeding during the procedure.
  • Improper healing – If the blood clot doesn’t form properly or becomes dislodged soon after the procedure, dry socket may develop.
  • Bacteria – If bacteria enter the socket, it can cause an infection, which can lead to dry socket.
  • Age Older patients are more at risk for developing dry socket as they tend to have more complications associated with tooth extractions.
  • Gender – Women taking oral contraceptives are more likely to develop dry socket because the high estrogen levels can disrupt normal healing processes. 


Smoking and vaping increase your risk of developing dry socket because it decreases blood flow to the extraction site, slows down the healing process, and increases your risk of infection.

If you do smoke or vape, it’s important to wait at least 48 hours after surgery. If you start smoking too soon, you may dislodge the blood clot and delay healing. We recommend quitting smoking for at least two weeks; however, quitting altogether will provide the best results.

Symptoms of Dry Socket

The most common symptom of dry socket is pain. This pain is often described as throbbing or aching and can be severe enough to interfere with sleep.

Other symptoms of dry socket include:

  • Bad breath
  • A foul taste in your mouth
  • Visible bone or nerves in the socket
  • Swelling around the extraction site

Treatment for Dry Socket

Unfortunately, there is no cure for dry socket. However, some treatments can help lessen the pain and promote healing.

These treatments include:

  • Antibiotics – These can help prevent infection and promote healing.
  • Pain relievers – Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help control pain. Your dentist may also prescribe stronger pain medication if necessary.
  • Medicated dressings – These dressings contain numbing medication or antibiotics and are placed directly in the socket. They need to be changed every few days and can provide relief for up to 7 days.

Prevention Is Key

The best way to avoid dry socket is to take precautions before and after your tooth extraction

There are a few things you can do to minimize your risk of developing dry socket, including:

  • Avoid smoking or using tobacco products for at least 48 hours after the extraction
  • Avoid alcohol for at least 24 hours after the extraction
  • Eat soft foods and avoid hard or crunchy foods 
  • Brush your teeth gently and avoid vigorous rinsing 
  • Do not drink through a straw

All in all, dry socket is fairly common, but luckily there are ways you can prevent it from happening. And if it does happen, treatments are available to ensure you’re as comfortable as possible throughout the ordeal.

Your Oral Surgeons in Phoenix

Smile to the max with AZ Max Oral and Maxillofacial surgeons. We are dedicated to providing our patients with the best care before and after surgery. If you have any questions about dry socket, contact us at (480) 830-5866. We are here to help you on your road to recovery!