Severe pain following tooth removal is often enough for your dentist or oral surgeon to suspect dry socket. You'll likely be asked if you have any other symptoms. Your dentist or oral surgeon can check your mouth to see if you have a blood clot in your tooth socket or if you have lost the clot and have exposed bone.

You may need X-rays of your mouth and teeth to rule out other conditions, such as a bone infection. The X-rays also can show if you have small pieces of tooth root or bone remaining in the site after surgery.

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Treatment of dry socket focuses on reducing symptoms, especially pain. Treatment may include:

  • Flushing out the socket. Your dentist or oral surgeon may flush out the socket to remove any food bits or other loose materials that may add to pain or possible infection.
  • Dressing with medicine. Your dentist or oral surgeon may pack the socket with medicated gel or paste and a dressing. These can provide quick pain relief. Whether you need dressing changes and how often and whether you need other treatment depends on how severe your pain and other symptoms are.
  • Pain medicine. Ask which pain medicine is best for you. You'll likely need a prescription pain medicine.
  • Self-care. Once your dentist or oral surgeon takes out the dressing, you may need to flush the socket at home to keep it clean and improve healing. Your dentist or oral surgeon can give you instructions. You may get a plastic syringe with a curved tip to squirt water, salt water or a prescription rinse into the socket.

Once treatment starts, you may begin to feel some pain relief. Pain and other symptoms should continue to improve and will likely be gone within a few days. Even when you're feeling better, keep scheduled appointments with your dentist or oral surgeon for dressing changes and other care.

Lifestyle and home remedies

You can help promote healing and reduce symptoms during treatment of dry socket by following instructions for self-care. You'll likely be told to:

  • Take pain medicines as prescribed.
  • Do not smoke or use tobacco products.
  • Drink plenty of clear liquids. This also may prevent nausea caused by some pain medicines.
  • Rinse your mouth gently with warm salt water several times a day.
  • Brush your teeth gently around the dry socket area.
  • Be careful with eating or drinking. To prevent the clot from coming out, avoid carbonated beverages and do not use a straw.

Preparing for your appointment

See your dentist or oral surgeon as soon as possible if you have new pain or pain that gets worse after a tooth removal.

What you can do

To get ready for your appointment, make a list of:

  • Any symptoms you have, including any that may not seem to be related to the reason for your appointment.
  • Key personal information, such as any medical conditions you have.
  • All medicines you take, including vitamins, herbs or other supplements, and the doses.
  • Questions to ask your dentist or oral surgeon to make the most of your time together.

Some questions to ask may include:

  • What are the likely causes of my pain?
  • Do I need any tests?
  • What type of treatment will I need to improve my symptoms?
  • What can I take for the pain?
  • Is there a generic option to the medicine you're prescribing?
  • How soon will I feel better?
  • How long should I wait to eat or drink after this treatment?
  • Are there any restrictions I need to follow?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can have?
  • Are there any websites you recommend?

Feel free to ask other questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor

Your dentist or oral surgeon is likely to ask you these questions:

  • When did the severe pain begin?
  • Does the pain occur on its own? Or does it happen when you drink or touch the area?
  • How would you rate the pain on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most severe?
  • Where do you feel the pain?
  • Have you taken pain medicine? How much and how often?
  • Has the pain medicine helped?
  • Do you have any other symptoms that may not seem to be related to your dental pain?
  • Have you had a fever?

Be ready to answer questions so that you'll have time to talk about what's most important to you.

July 18, 2023
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  5. dos Santos Canellas JV, et al. Intrasocket interventions to prevent alveolar osteitis after mandibular third molar surgery: A systematic review and network meta-analysis. Journal of Cranio-Maxillofacial Surgery. 2020; doi:10.1016/j.jcms.2020.06.012.
  6. Buttaravoli PM, et al. Dental pain, postextraction alveolar osteitis (dry socket, septic socket, necrotic socket, localized osteitis). In: Minor Emergencies. 4th ed. Elsevier; 2022. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 30, 2023.
  7. Hupp JR, et al., eds. Postextraction patient management. In: Contemporary Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. 7th ed. Elsevier; 2019. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 30, 2023.
  8. Postextraction problems. Merck Manual Professional Version. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dental-disorders/dental-emergencies/postextraction-problems?query=postextraction%20problems. Accessed March 30, 2023.
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