Dry Socket (cont.)

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What is the treatment for dry socket?

Treatment for dry socket is intended to make a patient more comfortable by reducing dental pain but it generally won't accelerate the healing process. It is very important to diagnose the dry socket correctly and not confuse it with something equally as painful like a root canal problem. It is diagnosed by visualizing or probing the exposed bone of an extraction site and noting the patient's symptoms of pain and foul odor or taste.

The dry socket is treated by flushing the extraction site with warm salt water solution and packing the socket with gauze or a gelatin sponge coated with an antiseptic dressing. Clove oil when mixed into a paste has been used effectively in treating dry sockets due to its soothing properties. The dressing is replaced every 1 to 3 days, depending on the severity of pain, until the pain goes away. As soon as the pain is gone, the socket must be allowed to heal on its own.

Are home remedies effective for dry socket?

To ease the pain and mild swelling, the patient can take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen. Also, a small drop of clove oil can be applied to a cotton ball and placed over the socket until the patient can see a doctor for a proper dressing. A rinse with warm salt water will help promote healing as well.

Can dry socket be prevented?

There are some things that can be done to lessen the probability of a tooth extraction resulting in a dry socket. The most important thing a patient can do to prevent a dry socket is follow the post operative instructions given at the time of extraction. These include avoiding the use of tobacco products and activities where the extraction site could be traumatized in any way. Also, avoid things like sucking forcefully through a straw or spitting as these actions could dislodge the blood clot.

Having the wisdom teeth removed as soon as it is determined necessary by a dentist or oral surgeon is also very important. Since the presence of bacteria and infection tends to contribute to the premature destruction of the blood clot, removing impacted wisdom teeth before they get infected, inflamed, or painful will help avoid a dry socket. Waiting until they are painful or infected puts the patient at increased risk.

There is also a link to oral contraceptive use and the incidence of dry socket. The estrogen dose in birth control pills is what contributes to the destruction of the clot, so planning an extraction during days 23 through 28 of the tablet cycle will help avoid this contributing factor to a dry socket.


Little, James W., et al. Dental Management of the Medically Compromised Patient 6th ed. Mosby, 2002.

McArdle, Barry F. "Preventing the negative sequelae of tooth extraction." Journal of the American Dental Association 133.6 (2002): 742-743.

Neville, Brad W., et al. Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology 2nd ed., Saunders Company, 2002.

Peterson, Larry J., et al. Contemporary Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery 4th ed., Mosby, 2003.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/3/2013

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