How to Diagnose Dry Socket

Written by ehow health editor
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How to Diagnose Dry Socket
Diagnose Dry Socket

Dry socket is an extremely painful condition that can occur after a tooth has been extracted. The blood clot covering the bone after the tooth has been removed sometimes fails to remain in place, leaving the socket exposed to air, debris and bacteria. Diagnosing dry socket early helps to reduce the pain and inflammation.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Watch for dry socket after a tooth has been extracted. Dry socket occurs only with tooth extraction so if you haven't had a tooth pulled in the last several days, tooth pain is likely caused by another problem.

  2. 2

    Wait for the pain to subside. Extraction pain eases gradually over several days. New or increasing pain beyond this point might be dry socket. When pain isn't getting better after an extraction, see a dentist or oral surgeon as soon as possible.

  3. 3

    Recognize patterns in dry socket occurrence. Dry socket is more likely in extractions of the bottom teeth, molars and impacted teeth. People with diabetes, individuals who smoke and women who take oral contraceptives are also more likely to get dry socket.

  4. 4

    Learn what causes dry socket and compare potential causes to your situation. Dry socket occurs when the blood clot is removed from the socket before healing occurs. Activities like sneezing, coughing, drinking from a straw, smoking and others dislodge the clot and all cause dry socket. Pain, combined with any of these activities, signals dry socket.

  5. 5

    Look for other symptoms of dry socket including bad breath, a bad taste in the mouth and spasms of the jaw muscles. You may or may not experience all of these symptoms but their presence with pain indicates a potential problem.

  6. 6

    Consult your dentist or oral surgeon if you think you may have dry socket. An examination of the socket area and a discussion of symptoms help diagnose dry socket.

Tips and warnings

  • Dry socket almost always resolves itself, but the condition is very painful. If at all possible, consult with a professional about pain medications, packing of the socket and other treatment options.

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