​Dry Socket

Dry socket (alveolar osteitis) is a condition where you experience intense pain due to the exposure of underlying bone and nerve in an empty tooth socket where a tooth used to be. Although uncommon, dry mouth can be experienced a few days after a tooth extraction, such as after the removal of an impacted wisdom tooth. This condition usually develops because the normal formation of a blood clot at the site of a tooth extraction, which protects the bone and nerves underneath, has become dislodged or has dissolved before the wound has cleared. Thus, the exposure of inner bones and nerves can cause you severe pain, not only in the empty socket but also along the sides of your face and to your ears as the pain radiates. This pain will probably not subside with over-the-counter medication so we therefore advise you to see your dentist or oral surgeon who would be able to suggest proper medication to relieve your pain and treatment to help healing. Fortunately, dry mouth is easily treatable, and the distinguished doctors at the Teeth & Skin Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital will be able to tend to your dental worries with great professionalism and ease.​

The symptoms of dry socket are usually experienced three to four days after a tooth extraction. The pain may subside after your tooth has been removed but then suddenly worsen after a few days. The pain usually becomes more intense with time, and can radiate to the sides of your face and to your ears. Other symptoms of dry socket include:

  • Intense pain within a few days following the removal of your tooth.

  • A dry-looking opening or socket (whitish bone) where a blood clot should have been. 

  • Pain that radiates from the site of the empty socket, to the sides of your face, ears, eyes, temples or neck corresponding to the side where your tooth was extracted.  

  • A foul taste in your mouth.  

  • Bad breath or odour coming from your mouth. 

  • Swollen lymph nodes surrounding your neck or jaw.

  • Slight fever.​​

It is normal to experience a certain amount of pain and discomfort after you have had a tooth extracted, and this can be treated with over-the-counter medication. However excessive pain that does not subside, is unresponsive to medication, and worsens with time should be addressed quickly. Contact your doctor or oral surgeon as soon as possible if you experience such pain after an extraction.​
Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.​ ​
If you visit your dentist or oral surgeon with complains about pain after an extraction, they will often suspect that you are suffering from dry mouth. He or she will ask about your pain and symptoms, about your dental history and about your general health. Your dentist will then examine your mouth to check to see whether a blood clot has formed normally, or if you have an exposed socket and bone. They may require X-rays of your mouth and teeth to be taken, in order to rule out any other possible problems. With all this information, you doctor will be able to make a proper diagnoses and suggest treatment.

Treatments of dry mouth mainly focus on reducing pain, as well as the other symptoms. Treatment options for dry mouth include:

  • Pain medication: Your doctor will likely suggest medication that is most appropriate for your situation to help to relieve the pain (if over-the-counter medication does not work). He or she may also prescribe antibiotics or anesthetize the area if need be.  

  • Flushing or Cleaning out the socket: Your dentist will clean out your empty socket and remove any food bits or other debris. Your doctor may also instruct how you may do this at home (e.g. salt water rinses or special mouthwashes), in order to get rid of any debris and chances of infection and promote healthy healing. 

  • Medicated dressing: Your doctor will fill the empty socket hole with either a medicated dressing or special paste to improve healing. This dressing will need to be changed every day until the socket starts to heal normally.​​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage​.

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.