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How Can I Deal with Dry Socket Pain?

By Kelly Ferguson
Updated Jan 26, 2024
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Dry socket is a condition that happens to some people after having a tooth pulled. A pulled tooth, especially a wisdom tooth, can develop dry socket pain if the blood clot forming in the wound does not stay anchored and breaks off, leaving the wound, and possibly the underlying jaw bone, exposed to the air, food, and drinks that pass over it. Bacterial infection is also often a complication. Dry socket pain can be treated with over-the-counter products, but it is usually much more effective to have the dentist or surgeon who pulled the tooth treat it instead.

Many people who have experienced dry socket pain describe it as a dull but agonizing jaw pain. Sometimes, the pain radiates all the way up into the ear or down into the neck. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen may be used to take the edge off of the pain and help keep swelling from the tooth removal at a minimum. Most people experiencing dry socket pain, however, do not find that the pain is effectively managed with simple over-the-counter pain relievers.

Most of the time, the dentist or surgeon performing the tooth removal will have provided a prescription for stronger painkillers for use after the surgery. These may be used in the event of dry socket pain, but it is important not to depend on them to the point of addiction or abuse. It is also not usually a feasible way to manage dry socket pain enough to perform normal daily activities such as work or school, both because prescription-strength painkillers tend to make the user sleepy, but also because the pain is often still very intense even after this treatment.

Before the tooth removal, most dentists and surgeons inform their patients that, if a dry socket develops, they should return to the office as soon as possible for treatment. Treatment usually involves the wound being packed with sterile gauze or cotton that has been soaked with clove oil, antibacterial agents, and whatever else the dentist thinks is necessary. Surprisingly, patients report feeling the greatest amount of relief from the pain after having it treated this way, even without painkillers. Some people also have success with over-the-counter kits that include gauze and clove oil, but usually not to the extent that treatment by the dentist isn't necessary.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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