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.
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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.
The image below is shows dry socket after an extraction in two separate areas.
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
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.
Blood clot in the 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yellow exposed bone
Red (blood clot), white (white stuff)
Bad breath, smell, taste
Bad breath, smell, taste, food can get stuck
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.