Dry Socket
Wisdom Teeth

By dentist Dr. Richard Mitchell

Do you have dry socket wisdom teeth pain? OR do you just have a wisdom teeth socket infection?

It can be hard to tell the difference, and you might be wondering if it even matters, when you are in pain after getting a wisdom tooth removed.

BUT IT DOES MATTER because the treatment is different. If you do the wrong thing, you will not fix the problem, and your pain will gradually get worse. SO we need to work out if you have dry socket wisdom teeth pain OR an infected socket.

ONCE WE KNOW WHICH CONDITION YOU HAVE, WE CAN RECOMMEND THE BEST TREATMENT! I know about this stuff, both as a dentist AND as a patient - I had a back molar removed in March 2020 - and it hurt! But I was able to help myself by using the rules I am laying out here for you.

Dry Socket wisdom toothThe hole in my gum where the tooth used to be.

So let’s get down to business - what are the symptoms of  dry socket wisdom teeth pain?

First, you will probably have a bad taste or a bad smell in your mouth. Next, you will start to get pain in the extraction socket 4 to 5 days AFTER the extraction.You will NOT have any swelling in the area at all.

Dry Socket Wisdom Tooth Pain

You would probably think that you have an infection in the socket, because it’s taken a few days for it to get painful, and you have that bad taste in your mouth.

BUT you’d be WRONG!

THIS IS THE MAIN SIGN that you have DRY SOCKET wisdom teeth pain, and NOT an infection. The pain starts 4 to 5 days AFTER the tooth removal. The pain is not caused by bacteria in the socket, and so there is minimal swelling, if any.

And antibiotics will not help. If there is no infection, then antibiotics have nothing to work on - they are ONLY effective against bacteria. They are NOT painkillers!

So what can you do about a dry socket wisdom teeth pain?

The pain IS caused by the tooth extraction socket being EMPTY, without any blood clot or healing in there. The bone inside the socket is exposed.


Right after the tooth was extracted, the socket will have filled up with blood, which then starts to clot. We want this blood clot to become firm in the socket, to fill it up.

Gradually it becomes firmer, and new blood capillaries start to grow into the blood clot, and the healing process starts. Slowly, bit by bit, new gum tissue and then bone will grow into the socket, until it is filled up and fully healed.

This process takes from 3 to 6 months to complete, approximately.

BUT IF THE BLOOD CLOT GETS WASHED OUT OF THE SOCKET before it has a chance to stabilize, then you are left with an empty socket. WITH EXPOSED BONE. You have a “dry” socket.

And the exposed bone hurts!

When you get a dry socket, the blood clot normally gets washed out of the socket within 2 to 4 days after the tooth removal. That is why the pain starts up around that time.

BUT why do have a bad taste or smell in your mouth? Surely that’s infection? NO, not necessarily. The bad taste you have when you get a dry socket wisdom teeth pain is due to food debris getting stuck down in the bottom of the socket, and rotting.

WHAT’S THE TREATMENT? It depends on the severity of your pain. There are 3 options! If you only have slight discomfort and a bit of a bad taste, you probably only need to do some vigorous mouth washing with HOT salt water.

Just half a teaspoon of normal table salt in a cup of hot water. Just rinse it forcefully around the extraction socket, to help clean it out. Do this every 4 to 6 hours.

If you have MODERATE PAIN and quite noticeable bad taste, then you probably have a fair bit of food debris down in the socket. You need to flush the socket out to get rid of the debris, and ideally increase oxygen levels to kick-start healing.

The BEST way to do this is to get hold of an oxygenating mouthwash like TheraBreath, and put it into the water tank of a good-quality oral irrigator, such as the WaterPik Oral Irrigator.

Then use the fine jet stream that comes out of the irrigator to wash out the socket! As well as washing out that decaying food debris, you are raising the oxygen level in the socket with the TheraBreath mouthwash. Again, do this 4 to 6 times a day at first, and take Tylenol or Ibuprofen for the pain until it starts to settle down.

BUT if you have SEVERE pain from your wisdom tooth dry socket, you need more aggressive treatment. You have to re-establish the blood clot in the socket. You have to go back to your dentist, and he will numb up the area (see How To Get A Painless Shot), then wash out the socket thoroughly, and scrape the bone inside the socket to remove any dead bone that might have formed, and make the bone bleed.

Then the dry socket will be clean, and will fill up with a blood clot. Your dentist might also put a suture (a stitch) across the socket while it’s numb, to help stabilize the blood clot and help it heal up normally.

He may also prescribe you some stronger painkillers to take for the 1 or 2 days it will take for the socket to start healing and for the pain to subside.

Those are the three options open to you to treat dry socket wisdom teeth pain.


If you can get through the painful period of 7 to 10 days, nearly ALL dry sockets will heal up eventually, WITHOUT any treatment! But it takes time. Maybe up to 14 days in total.

So, if your dry socket wisdom teeth pain is not too bad, you will probably get away with using an oxygenating mouthwash and an oral irrigator, to wash out any debris that’s trapped in there, and kick-start healing with the oxygen released by the mouthwash.

Updated August 25, 2021

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