What Are Dry Socket Symptoms & Causes?

by | Jun 7, 2022

There are many dental emergencies that we have seen here at City Dental Centers. When you are a dental office that offers emergency services, you must be prepared to handle the issues whenever they may occur, no matter what time of day. What may surprise many of you, is that most dental emergencies can be avoided by following post-procedure instructions and proper dental hygiene.

Dry socket is a painful condition that normally occurs after tooth extraction has been performed. Experiencing dry socket symptoms is something nobody is going to enjoy because they are some of the most unpleasant dental conditions that can occur.

Blood Clotting After Tooth Removal

After you have a tooth extracted your body will create a blood clot to form a protective layer over the nerve endings and bone in the empty socket. This is to protect the nerves from infections and provides an environment for the growth of new bone and soft tissue. While this blood clot is in place, you should not experience any dry socket symptoms, and should not feel any residual pain from the extraction, after the first couple of days.

If for whatever reason that blood clot becomes dislodged, the underlying bone and nerves will become exposed. This will cause tremendous, radiating pain in the jaw and side of your face. The exposed socket will become inflamed and swollen and may fill with food debris which will add to the pain of the exposed nerves.

After about 1 to 3 days after your tooth is removed and the blood clot is dislodged, a dry socket (alveolar osteitis) will normally occur. Dry socket symptoms are the most common complication that follows a tooth extraction, such as the removal of the wisdom teeth. Medications that are found over the counter are normally not strong enough to combat the intense pain that accompanies dry socket, so normally an emergency dental visit is necessary.

Dry Socket Symptoms

A certain degree of pain and discomfort after a tooth extraction in normal and should not concern you. Normally, your dentist will prescribe you pain medication after the procedure to help with the pain, as it begins to lessen over time. If you begin to experience new or worsening pain a few days after the extraction, you may be beginning to experience dry socket symptoms. The common symptoms of dry socket include:

  • Severe sharp, burning pain that radiates from your gums to the sides of your face to your ear, eye, and temple on the side which the tooth was extracted. This pain normally begins a few days after the tooth extraction has occurred. 
  • Partial, or complete dislocation and loss of the blood clot that formed after the extraction. If you look into your mouth at the extraction site, you will be able to see an empty-looking (dry) socket where the blood clot used to be.
  • When looking at the dry socket you should be able to see visible bone.
  • Other common dry socket symptoms include bad breath or a foul odor coming from your mouth, accompanied by an unpleasant taste in your mouth.

Causes and Risk Factors for Dry Socket

Dry socket forms when either the protective blood clot is dislodged or removed. Dry sockets also manifest when the clot never forms in the first place for some reason. Researchers still do not understand exactly what prevents the clot from forming in some instances. However, they suspected bacteria is the cause. The bacteria forms due to food, drinks, or other things that can enter the mouth.

Trauma

Trauma to the face and jaw will likely dislodge the blood clot which will lead to dry socket after an extraction. This can happen during the extraction itself or during the aftercare. A common issue is when someone accidentally pokes at the clot with a toothbrush. This may disrupt the healing of the socket.

Tobacco

The most serious risk factors for dry socket symptoms include smoking cigarettes or other products and using any kind of tobacco. Sucking on the cigarette or other product, or even a straw can dislodge the blood clot. Also, the chemicals in tobacco slow the healing and will contaminate the wound from the extraction.

Birth Control

Some types of birth control pills contain high levels of estrogen which can disrupt the healing process after a tooth extraction. Research has shown that if you time the extractions during days 23 through 28 of the tablet cycle, the risk of dry socket can be minimized due to the decreased estrogen in those tablets. (Catellani, 1980)

Failure to Follow Dentist Instructions

By far, the most common reason dry socket symptoms occur is if the patient does not follow the dental post-procedure instructions. You may be asked to gently rinse your mouth out with antimicrobial mouthwash a few times per day. Also, avoid any strenuous activity or exercise. Finally, take all the antibiotics prescribed by the dentist after the extraction as well.  

You will also be instructed to avoid hard and crunchy foods for the first few days. While eating such foods, they could dislodge the blood clot. Stock your fridge and pantry with soft foods like rice, pasta, eggs, yogurt, and applesauce.

Dry Socket Complications and Prevention 

While painful, dry socket symptoms rarely result in an infection of or serious complications. However, that is not to say that complications never happen when suffering from dry sockets. If a bacterial infection sets into a dry socket, it could progress into a chronic bone infection (osteomyelitis).

While osteomyelitis is most common in younger children, it can happen at any age. Normally, boys are more susceptible than girls. Osteomyelitis occurs when the bone tissue gets inflamed and swollen. Frequently, this is due to an infection in the body spreading to the bones. Antibiotics are normally prescribed for this condition; however, in certain serious conditions, surgery may be called for.

The best way to prevent dry sockets and their complications is to make sure that the dentist or oral surgeon you use has experience in tooth extractions. Also, quitting smoking and using tobacco products before your extraction will decrease your risk for dry socket symptoms. You can speak with your dentist about a program that can help you quit smoking permanently. Also, make sure you speak with your dentist about any medications or supplements that may prevent blood clotting.

Make sure that you avoid any strenuous lifting or activity after your extraction. Using ice and cold packs help reduce the swelling and helps the pocket heal. Additionally, make sure that you take all medications that are prescribed by your dentist after the extraction.

The Experts at City Dental Centers for Dry Socket Symptoms

Here at City Dental Centers, we have treated many cases of dry socket symptoms. This is a condition that is very often avoidable after tooth extraction. We know that if a dry socket does happen, it can be very painful, and you will seek immediate relief.

Even if you had your tooth extraction at another dental office, all our City Dental Centers offer emergency services and are willing to treat you. We have offices all over Southern California, so no matter where you live, there will be a City Dental Center near you. If you are experiencing dry socket symptoms, don’t wait, call us today before it can turn into a serious infection.

Convenient Dentist Offices in Southern California

Doctor Sam Shahovesi and the team at City Dental Centers are here to provide our patients with the best dental services and dental surgeries for children and adults of all ages. From toddlers to seniors, City Dental Centers offers six convenient dentist offices in Southern California.

Whether you need checkups, x-rays, braces, bonding, teeth whitening, sealants, oral cancer screenings, root canals, crowns, bridges, implants, or tooth extraction, City Dental Centers is here to make the process as easy and comfortable as possible. If you’re looking for a quality dentist, give your local City Dental Center a try today.

Contact The Nearest Dentist to You

Ready to experience the best dentists in Los Angeles? Choose one of the convenient dental offices we have surrounding LA. We have dental practices in Azusa, Corona, Lake Forest, Montclair, Pico Rivera, and West Covina. You can call our main line at (888) 624-8933 or reach out to an office directly with the information below. Alternatively, you can visit our new patients & first visits page for more info. We’re so happy you’ve chosen City Dental Centers. We can’t wait to help you along your dental journey and brighten your beautiful smile!

Dentist in Azusa, CA

Location: 483 S. Citrus Ave. Azusa, CA 91702
Phone: (626) 966-3400

Dentist in Corona, CA

Location: 161 McKinley St. STE 102, Corona, CA 92879
Phone: (951) 737-3746

Dentist in Lake Forest, CA

Location: 24602 Raymond Way #210, Lake Forest, CA 92630
Phone: (949) 461-5800

Dentist in Montclair, CA

Location: 5182 Moreno St, Montclair, CA 91763
Phone: (909) 295-3477

Dentist in Pico Rivera, CA

Location: 9400 Whittier Blvd, Pico Rivera, CA 90660
Phone: (562) 949-2526

Dentist in West Covina, CA

Location: 154 Plaza Dr, West Covina, CA 91790
Phone: (626) 962-1722

References:

  • Catellani, J. E. (1980). Effect of oral contraceptive cycle on dry socket (localized alveolar osteitis). The Journal of the American Dental Association.