Dry Socket: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Dry socket is a condition of inflammation of the jawbone (or alveolar bone) after a tooth extraction. Medically, dry socket is referred to as alveolar osteitis. Dry socket occurs in about 2% of tooth extractions but is much more common after wisdom tooth (third molar) removal than for other teeth. The characteristic symptom of dry socket is throbbing pain at the site at which a tooth has been pulled. The pain usually occurs two to four days after the tooth extraction. Other symptoms can include bad breath and a foul or bad taste in the mouth. The pain may also be felt in the face, eye, or ear on the affected side. In some cases, it is possible to see the exposed jawbone through an open socket.

Causes of dry socket

The cause of dry socket is the partial or total loss of the blood clot that remains in the tooth socket after a tooth is pulled. Normally, a blood clot will form in the tooth socket after removal to aid healing and to protect the underlying jawbone. If the blood clot is disrupted or missing, the bone is exposed and healing is delayed. A number of factors can increase the likelihood of the blood clot not forming properly or being lost, including drinking from a straw, vigorous rinsing or irrigation of the site, tobacco smoking, or infection.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/14/2017

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