Has your dentist hinted you may need a tooth extracted? Perhaps it’s abscessed, in danger of falling out, or you need to have it removed to make way for your wisdom teeth (third adult molars).
First of all, we want to assure you: tooth extraction is a very common procedure. More than 20 million teeth are pulled in the U.S. each year. If the (former) owners of the extracted teeth can do it, so can you. What’s more, your dentist and the dental team will work very hard to make sure the extraction is as stress- and pain free as possible.
What is a tooth extraction?
A tooth extraction is a procedure in which a dentist removes a tooth from its socket in the jaw bone. There are two types of tooth extractions: simple and surgical.
A simple extraction is performed when a tooth is visible above the gum line and can be loosened then removed with forceps. A surgical extraction is a more complex procedure that requires an oral surgeon to cut through bone and gum tissue in order to remove a tooth that is not visible above the gum line or is impacted. Your dentist will use a topical anesthetic to numb the area before removing a tooth.
Why is a tooth extracted?
The reasons that you may need one or more tooth extractions may vary based on the condition of your oral health. Your dentist will do attempt to salvage a decayed or broken tooth with a crown or dental restoration prior to deciding to remove the tooth. A tooth with severe decay, infection or abscess may need to be extracted. Several reasons for a tooth removal can include:
- Severe tooth decay
- Your baby teeth may not have fallen out, thus blocking your permanent teeth from erupting
- You need or want braces (orthodontia) and you need to have some teeth removed so that teeth being worked on with the braces have room to move
- You may need to have your wisdom teeth removed if they’re causing pain, become impacted in your jaw (they don’t come in)
More serious reasons for having teeth extracted could be that you need to receive radiation to your head and/or neck and so teeth in the field of radiation need to be removed. Cancer patients also may develop infections in their teeth (cancer drugs can weaken the immune system) and the infected teeth need to be removed.
What to expect during your extraction
Prior to your extraction, your dentist will obtain your full dental as well as medical history. He’ll also want a full list of all the medications you may take including vitamins, over the counter medications, supplements and any medication allergies.
The doctor then will take x-rays to determine the best way to remove the tooth.
Right before the procedure, your dentist will numb the area around the tooth/teeth that will be pulled with a local anesthetic. He’ll be sure to numb the tooth/teeth, your gums and jawbone.
You will feel something, but it’s usually a feeling of pressure. Your dentist will rock the tooth back and forth to loosen it and this is when you will feel the pressure. You shouldn’t feel pain, but if you do, let your dentist know immediately so that he can provide you with more numbing agents.
Your procedure may be a surgical extraction because your tooth hasn’t yet broken through the gum line or isn’t fully grown. Your surgeon will make a tiny incision into your gum in order to get to the tooth.
After your extraction
It’s common to have some bleeding for about 24 hours. Your dentist will instruct you on how to care for and clean the tooth extraction site. You may need to take some antibiotics and pain medication. Your surgeon also may recommend taking anti-inflammatory drugs (Motrin and Advil) to help with pain. You also could use an ice pack on your jaw to reduce swelling.
Make sure you follow your dentist’s post-procedure instructions closely. You may be given antibiotics if the dentist to minimize the risk of the socket becoming infected.
You will want to refrain from brushing your teeth for 24 hours and eat cool and soft foods only, chewing on the other side of your mouth. It’s best not to use commercial mouth rinses in the few days after the surgery.
You will want to be particularly careful not to release the blood clot that will form in the socket, or you risk exposing the bone, tissue and nerves, a painful condition called dry socket. The sutures should heal and close completely in about two weeks.