Dry Socket vs. Blood Clot

The fact is, it’s no fun getting a tooth pulled—but sometimes it’s necessary. Whether it’s time to part ways with wisdom teeth, you have a tooth that cannot be saved from decay, or you have serious damage to a tooth, the best choice might be tooth extraction.

Most tooth extractions are fairly routine and simple procedures with little or no pain. Your dentist will provide local anesthetic to the area around your tooth so that you are numb during the extraction.

Shortly after the tooth extraction, you should have no pain. If, however, the pain does not go away and gets worse, it’s time to call the dentist. You might be experiencing dry socket or blood clotting.

Learn the differences between a dry socket vs a blood clot.

What Does A Dry Socket Look Like?

When you get a tooth pulled, a blood clot naturally forms to help your mouth heal. In some cases, the blood clot might dislodge or fail to form properly. When this happens, you can experience a dry socket.

Experiencing a dry socket is painful. The blood clot should form to cover and protect your bone and nerves after tooth extraction. When that doesn’t happen, the bone and nerves are exposed, leading to inflammation and pain at the site and along your face.

Although it’s difficult to pinpoint what causes dry socket, it may be the result of a bacterial infection or trauma where you had the tooth removed. If you experience the following symptoms, contact your dentist:

  • Severe pain days after your tooth is pulled
  • Pain that extends along your face
  • Unpleasant taste
  • Bad breath

When looking at the spot where your tooth was removed, you will be able to see a dry socket. This means there is no blood clot over the extraction site—just a hole. You might be able to see bone in the socket as well.

Although a dry socket is painful, the problem usually resolves on its own. Your dentist can help you find ways to alleviate the pain, for example, by rinsing with salt water and keeping the surgical site clean. They also might provide medicated gauze or suggest anti-inflammatory medication.

Why Blood Clotting Should Happen After Tooth Extraction

When you have a tooth pulled, you do not want a dry socket. Instead, a blood clot should form in the space where your tooth was extracted.

This is a good thing! The blood clot is part of the natural healing process. It will form in the socket to cover and protect your exposed bone and nerves. Just like when you get a cut or have an open wound and it scabs in order to heal, the site of your tooth extraction needs to clot so it can properly mend.

To allow the area to heal, your dentist will recommend avoiding these activities for 2-3 days:

  • Smoking or tobacco use
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Vigorous exercise
  • Using a drinking straw
  • Brushing that area of your teeth

Some situations are more prone to complications, making it more difficult for your mouth to heal. Higher risks for dry socket include:

  • Smoking or tobacco use
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Current tooth or gum infection
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Poor at-home care after the procedure
  • Using a straw to drink after tooth extraction
  • Taking certain osteoporosis medications

If these risks apply to you, talk to your dentist about ways you can avoid dry socket.

When To Contact Your Dentist

If tooth extraction is in your future, take some time to learn how to properly heal from the procedure. Understand what complications might occur and how you can avoid or treat them.

If you experience pain or discomfort longer than anticipated, be sure to contact your dentist. Learn more about tooth extraction and proper care from Hubbard and Tosto Dentistry.