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Dry Socket Vs. Normal Socket: What Are The Differences?

Dry socket, otherwise known as alveolar osteitis, is inflammation of the alveolar bone. This typically occurs as a complication of tooth extraction and can be very painful due to the bone and nerves becoming exposed. So, what does a dry socket look like, and are there any major differences between a dry socket vs normal socket? Let’s find out.

How To Know If You Have a Dry Socket?

After tooth extraction, you will have an empty socket where the old tooth and its root would have been. If your wound is healing as it should, the empty socket should begin to heal on its own while your pain starts to decrease with each passing day.

However, the main difference between a dry socket vs normal is that your pain level will begin to escalate as time goes on. You may experience throbbing that spreads across your jaw, all the way up to your ear.

So, what does a dry socket look like, and what are some of the main symptoms?

  • Increasing pain
  • Visible bone or tissue upon inspection
  • Bad taste
  • Extreme sensitivity
  • Bad breath
  • No blood clot in the empty socket

How Do Dry Sockets Occur?

After tooth extraction, e.g. wisdom tooth removal there is going to be a large hole left in your mouth that your body needs to heal. In response, the body creates inflammation which causes swelling around the area. Platelets clump together and form a blood clot, which is the body’s method for protecting the wound and sealing it shut.

However, the situation is a bit different when looking at dry socket vs normal, since this means that the body hasn’t healed correctly. What does dry socket look like in these cases, and what causes this to happen?

Well, there are a few factors that increase the likelihood of developing a dry socket, such as

  • putting too much pressure on the wound (and dislodging the clot),
  • smoking,
  • if you already had a preexisting infection before the surgery took place.

Treatment For Dry Socket

Let’s say the worst has happened and you have been unfortunate enough to develop a dry socket. What are some of the ways you would treat a dry socket vs a normal socket? The American Dental Association advises going to the dentist to control signs. First things first, if you feel as though the clot has become dislodged or if you are in a lot of pain, you need to revisit your dentist and seek expert advice.

In most cases, the dentist will flush out the socket with a saline solution to clean the area and prevent infection from spreading. Next, they will slowly pack the socket with a medicated dressing that will control the pain while encouraging the body to form another cloth and heal correctly. Once the dressing is in place you will usually have to return to the dentist once every 2-3 days to change the dressing, have the wound cleaned, and have the dentist inspect the socket to see how well it is healing. Throughout this time you may be prescribed painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs to assist the healing process.

When Can You Stop Worrying About Dry Socket?

If you’re wondering when can I stop worrying about dry sockets, you can probably count yourself safe once you hit five days after the surgery. The risk of dry socket reduces over time, so the more chance the wound has to heal, the more likely it is that you just have a normal socket after tooth extraction.

For example, if you can see a healthy wisdom tooth blood clot forming in your wound and it’s been five or more days, you can safely assume that you’re out of the woods and you have healed correctly.

How Do You Tell If You Have a Dry Socket or Just Pain?

The first thing to monitor is your pain. Now, it’s important to bear in mind that it is completely normal for you to feel some level of pain after tooth extraction. After all, having a tooth pulled from your mouth is a traumatic experience for most people, and it will usually necessitate that you take painkillers for at least a few days after the surgery is complete.

However, if you notice that your pain levels are continuing to rise after 2-3 days and you feel your mouth becoming more sensitive, then there is a strong chance you have developed a dry socket. With that said, pain tolerances vary quite significantly from person to person, and there are some rare cases of people developing dry socket without feeling and strong sensations of pain.

Yet, the good news is that if you can tolerate the pain, there is no need to seek treatment as the body will heal on its own. Just be sure to keep an eye on the wound so you can ensure that no infections are taking hold. Some of the key markers of infection include discoloration, pus coming from the socket, and a bad smell.


Hopefully, by now you have a good understanding of the differences between a dry socket vs normal socket, as well as some of the main things to look out for after you have undergone tooth extraction. Remember, the main symptom that you will experience if you do develop a dry socket is an increasing level of pain despite several days that have passed since your surgery. Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep track of your pain (maybe with a journal), so you can record whether or not you are feeling better or if you need to contact the dentist to get your wound seen.