Dry Socket and Other Complications After Tooth Extraction

Post-tooth extraction dry socket occurs after about 5% of tooth extractions. It is a very painful condition that develops when a blood clot does not form properly at the tooth extraction site, or when the clot is lost too early.

Thus the socket is ‘dry’.  The bone is therefore exposed and this can cause severe pain.

The pain usually arises after the second day after tooth extraction.  You can also have pain that spreads to the ear as well as a bad taste in your mouth and bad breath.

Post-tooth extraction dry socket often has no obvious cause.  But known risk factors are:

  • Difficult tooth extractions.
  • Extractions of back teeth in the lower jaw, especially wisdom teeth (more on these here).
  • Smoking before and/or after the extraction.
  • Diabetes.
  • Oral contraceptive pills.
  • Previously having post-tooth extraction dry socket.
"Graphic showing how a dry socket arises after tooth extraction"

How a dry socket arises after tooth extraction


Tips for Prevention of Dry Socket

“How can I prevent getting a dry socket after tooth extraction?”

Follow the post-operative guidelines that your dentist gives you! In particular:

What you do in the first 24 hours are very important in terms preventing a dry socket

  • Clean your mouth well before tooth extraction.
  • Do not smoke for at least 24 hours after tooth extraction.
  • Avoid rinsing for 24 hours.

See here for more aftercare advice for a tooth extraction.


Treatment With The Dentist

The socket will need to be rinsed free of any debris and then the dentist will apply a dressing to relieve the pain and reduce the inflammation in the socket.

This may need to be done every few days until the dry socket heals, but usually once or twice is enough to initiate healing and reduce the symptoms.

Your dentist will also advise you on the best pain-relief for your situation.


Other Possible Tooth Extraction Complications

Possible complications which can occur after extraction include:

  • Damage to nearby teeth or fillings.
  • Fracture of the root.  This is either removed or if small can be left in place.
  • Infection in the bone.  This is rare in healthy individuals.
  • Pain, tenderness and tightness around the jaw joint and muscles.
  • Jaw fracture from the force applied when extracting the tooth.  This is very rare and usually only happens in older people with weakened bone or bone disease.
  • The root of a top back tooth often extends into the sinus.  Thus when such a tooth is removed, a hole can be left between the mouth and the sinus.  This usually heals itself but sometimes requires surgery to fix it.
  • Nerve damage with resultant long-term numbness in the area.  This is a rare complication and is associated more-so with wisdom teeth removal.


Contact your dentist if:

  • The extraction area becomes very painful after a few days.
    Male dentist

    Contact your dentist if you have any problems or concerns

  • You have any swelling that is worsening.
  • You fell generally unwell or develop a fever.
  • You have difficulty swallowing.
  • You have bleeding in the area that doesn’t stop after packing with gauze or that hasn’t fully stopped after 24 hours.
  • Your tongue, chin or lip feels numb more than 4 to 6 hours after the procedure.


Always contact your dentist if you are having any concerns after having a tooth extraction.  Post-tooth extraction dry socket is a common condition that usually clears up within a week. Always follow your dentist’s advice to reduce the chances of this and other complications.

Return to main page on tooth extractions or return home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Scroll To Top