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Think You Got a Partial Dry Socket?!

There is no such thing as a partial dry socket because the condition does not exist on a spectrum, you either have it or you don't have it. However, most patients mistake other oral conditions as a partially dry socket after an extraction. Some of these conditions may need treatment while others don't!


Can you have a partial dry socket?

It's not possible to have a partial dry socket after an extraction or wisdom tooth removal because the condition does not exist.


Extraction socket immediately afterwards
Extraction socket immediately afterwards

A dry socket is a yes or no condition meaning you either have it or you don't have it. There is no in between state or stage for this dreaded post-extraction condition.


Ultimately it is very helpful for you to be able to distinguish whether you have a dry socket vs just a normal healing socket. Although a tell-tale sign of having it is if you're experiencing excruciating pain. Yes, a raging toothache unlike anything that you've felt before.


Attributes

Dry Socket

Normal Socket

Appearance

Yellow exposed bone

Red (blood clot), white (white stuff)

Sensation

Increasing pain

Decreasing pain

Odor

Bad breath, Smell, Taste

Bad breath, smell, taste, food can get stuck

Healing speed

Delayed socket closure

Socket closure over time


Partial dry socket treatment: Unfortunately there is no cure for it and the most that your dentist can do for you is palliative treatment.

  • Apply dry socket paste.

  • Induce bleeding in the area to get it to heal faster.

  • Pain medication.

  • Patience because this condition will resolve on its own but it can take longer than a normal healing socket.


What a "partial dry socket" can look like

If it is actually a dry socket, it will have the appearance of yellow exposed bone that is devoid of a blood clot.


Non-healing dry socket
Non-healing dry socket

However, if you start seeing other colors within the socket such as red, white, or black, it could mean something else.


 

What else it could be

Patients often see something in their extraction socket and assume that it is a partial dry socket but it is usually some other oral condition.


What you may see in a socket:

  • Red socket

  • White socket

  • Black socket


Extraction socket looks red

If you the socket looks red, it is definitely not a partial dry socket because what you're seeing is a normal blood clot.


red inside tooth socket
red inside tooth socket

The very definition of a dry socket is that it is devoid of a blood clot. However, if you see red it means there IS a blood clot in there so it cannot be it!


What you need to do: You should count this as a blessing because it is a part of the normal healing process. You should give it a few days or a week and take a look again. As long as you're not in excruciating pain it's probably just a regular ole blood clot.


Extraction socket looks white

If the socket looks white and you're not having any pain, it is most likely just white stuff (granulation tissue).


White stuff inside of healing extraction socket
White stuff inside of healing extraction socket

What you need to do: If you have this, it is good news because it means you are well on your way to recovery. This is a part of the normal healing process. Our dentists like to call this the ugly duckling phase because usually a week or so after this stage, the gums start closing over it.


Extraction socket looks black

A tooth extraction socket that looks black is actually normal and is not a socket that is partially dry. It looks black due to light being unable to reach into it.


black hole where tooth was extracted
black hole where tooth was extracted

What you need to do: You don't need to do anything for this black hole because it will slowly get smaller and smaller over time. In other words it is a normal part of the healing process.


The best way to tell if this is normal or not is if you're feeling pain. This condition should be painless, if it is not, it may be something else...


 

Verdict

While a partially dry socket does not exist, it could be a different oral condition. If you are concerned you should book a consultation with one of our dentists in Long island City and we can verify for you whether it is a post-extraction complication or not.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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