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What a Dry Socket Looks Like & Doesn't Look Like

What a dry socket after a tooth extraction looks like is an empty hole with exposed jaw bone that is devoid of a blood clot and white granulation tissue. It is often accompanied by excruciating pain which is a hallmark characteristic.


Table of Contents:


What dry socket looks like

The appearance of a dry socket is that of exposed jaw bone which is healing very slowly. The color should be off yellow since that is the color of your bone. As its name implies, the socket is dry which means it does not have a blood clot nor does it have white stuff (granulation tissue) in it.


The image below is what it looks like with the exposed yellowish color bone showing.

Dry socket with yellow bone showing
Dry socket with yellow bone showing

The image below is shows dry socket after an extraction in two separate areas.


two extraction spots with dry socket
two extraction spots with dry socket

What dry socket doesn't look like

More often than not, a lot of patients misdiagnose their normal healing extraction socket as a dry socket. They look at the extraction site and assume that they must have one because it looks out of the ordinary to them.


Below, we will go through what a normal healing socket can look like at various stages. All of these stages indicate that you do NOT have the condition.


Stages of a normal tooth socket that is healing:

  • Immediately after the extraction

  • Blood clot in the socket

  • White stuff in the socket

  • Healing socket that is closing


What the socket looks like right after an extraction

Socket immediately after an extraction
Socket immediately after an extraction

Appearance/Characteristics:

  • Large gaping hole in the jaw.

  • Bright red in color.

  • Blood oozing out of the socket.

Below is another image in case you wanted a different view.


upper wisdom tooth socket after an extraction
upper wisdom tooth socket after an extraction

Blood clot in the extraction socket

blood clot present in extraction socket
blood clot present in extraction socket

If you see bright red inside of the socket, that is a good sign because it means that you've a blood clot. A dry socket is a lack of a blood clot so if you have a clot, it means you don't have dry socket!


Appearance/Characteristics:

  • Socket hole is smaller than the first day.

  • Bright red in color.

  • Very light blood can be oozing out of it.


White stuff in extraction socket

If you see white stuff in the extraction socket, that is a good sign because it is granulation tissue. What it means is that your body is progressing through the normal stages of healing.


Below is a picture of what the white stuff looks like about 3-4 days after the procedure.

white stuff in molar extraction socket
white stuff in molar extraction socket

Appearance/Characteristics:

  • Hole is getting smaller by the day.

  • Mostly white in color with little red specks.


Below is another picture of what the granulation tissue or white stuff can look like.


white stuff in extraction hole
white stuff in extraction hole

Extraction socket that is shrinking in size

If your socket is growing smaller in size and looks black, it means you're almost fully healed. Some patients mistakenly call this stage a "black hole" because it literally looks like a small hole that is black in color.


healing socket that looks like a black hole
healing socket that looks like a black hole

Appearance/Characteristics:

  • Small hole

  • "Black hole"

  • No blood or white stuff present.


Dry socket vs Normal socket summary

Below is a summary comparison table of how to tell a dry socket apart from a normal healing tooth socket.

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

If you're unsure, the best thing to do is to contact your dentist for a consultation. The condition is always accompanied by some severity of pain so if you're not feeling any pain, you probably don't have it.


What to do if you have it

If you happen to have a dry socket, you should make a follow up appointment with your dentist who did your extraction. While there is no cure for it, most of the treatment is palliative in nature, aimed at reducing some of the pain.


If you don't have the condition, we still recommend following normal extraction aftercare protocol. Make sure you rinse out really well with salt water after every meal until the socket fully closes.

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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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