Wedgewood Dental

Dry Sockets: What Are They and How Can You Avoid Them?

Dry Sockets: What Are They and How Can You Avoid Them?

Dry sockets occur after you have a tooth extraction. This condition is extremely painful. It happens when the blood clot that begins to form at the site of the removal gets dislodged or dissolved somehow, exposing the nerves beneath.

It’s more likely to affect teeth on your lower gums and after you have a molar removed, including your wisdom teeth. Although this condition is very painful, it is both preventable and treatable. 

To help you understand the condition, Linda K. Westmoreland, DDS, of Wedgewood Dental explains how to prevent and treat dry sockets.

What is a dry socket?

Some pain is normal and to be expected when you have a tooth removed or you have oral surgery. But sometimes, the pain gets even worse over the course of a few days to a week, which is not normal. 

When you get a tooth pulled (including your wisdom teeth), your body forms a blood clot at the place where the tooth was removed. This clot is meant to protect your gums and the roots of your tooth. 

A dry socket, also called alveolar osteitis, occurs when that blood clot dissolves or gets dislodged, meaning that you no longer have it in place to protect the exposed nerves and bone below. 

It’s likely to be extremely painful, and over-the-counter pain relievers do little to relieve the pain.

How to prevent dry socket

When you get a tooth removed, we send you home with aftercare instructions. These aftercare instructions are more than just suggestions. Follow them closely to prevent developing a dry socket after your tooth extraction.

To prevent a dry socket:

  • Don’t smoke (especially in the first 48 hours after surgery)
  • Avoid using straws
  • Avoid frequent or forceful spitting
  • Avoid rinsing your mouth during the first 24 hours after surgery

Other factors that influence your risk of getting a dry socket include the use of nicotine or birth control pills, and any preexisting bacteria in your mouth.

How to treat dry socket

If you have a dry socket, you’ll be in more pain a few days after the procedure than you were immediately afterward. You may also notice extreme sensitivity to hot or cold drinks, bad breath, a headache, an unpleasant taste in your mouth, and pain that radiates to your ears.

If you can see the area where the tooth was removed, you may also notice that it looks whitish and dry. A healthy extraction site should look dark red. 

You can take over-the-counter pain relievers and see if they help. If they don’t, Dr. Westmoreland may prescribe stronger medication or anesthetize the area.  

She may also flush out the area to remove any debris that may be causing additional irritation or pain. She then packs the area with gauze. In addition, she may advise you to use a special mouthwash to rinse your mouth several times a day.

If you’ve had oral surgery or a tooth removed recently, follow our guidelines for aftercare. If you develop a dry socket despite your efforts, return to our office right away for treatment. Contact us today at Wedgewood Dental in Rolla or Salem, Missouri.


713 Salem Avenue Suite A, Rolla MO 65401

Office Hours

MON 7:30 am - 3:30 pm

TUE Closed

WED - THU 7:30 am - 3:30 pm

FRI - SUN Closed

Get in Touch


Phone: (573) 368-7325


1116 S. Main Street, Salem MO 65560

Office Hours

MON Closed

TUE 9:00 am - 4:00 pm

WED - THU Closed

FRI 9:00 am - 3:00 pm

SAT - SUN Closed

Get in Touch


Phone: (573) 729-7701