When Surgical Extraction of Teeth is Necessary

You want to keep your teeth for a lifetime, but circumstances can arise that prompt your dentist to recommend removing a tooth for the good of your dental health. And although many of your teeth are easily removable, it's occasionally more complicated, and requires a more involved procedure. Here's why the surgical extraction of teeth may become necessary, and how your dentist differentiates these procedures from others.

Why Can't a Tooth be Saved?

The American Dental Association (ADA) Mouth Healthy site suggests teeth are usually removed due to trauma, disease or crowding. When a tooth cannot be repaired with a filling or a crown because of an accident or extensive decay, an extraction may be your best recourse. Teeth that aren't supported by enough bone due to periodontal disease are also candidates for removal, according to Warren Dentistry, necessitating the use of a gum-protecting toothpaste like Colgate Total® Clean Mint following extraction. Infected (abscessed) teeth that don't respond to root canal treatment may need to be taken out, as well.

Keep in mind it's not unusual for an orthodontist to recommend an extraction or two before orthodontic treatment begins because of crowed teeth. Similarly, wisdom teeth are frequently extracted because of the awkward position in which they grow behind your molars.

Simple Extractions vs. Surgical Extractions

The surgical extraction of teeth is actually the most common surgical procedure provided in the United States, according to Doctors Ueckert and Bradley. When a tooth is visible above the gum line and your dentist can easily remove it with forceps, the procedure is called a simple extraction. If a more volatile tooth has yet to grow in, however, your dentist needs to remove gum tissue or bone in order to extract it. This is called a surgical extraction, and requires stitches to close the site so that it can heal properly. The doctor may also prescribe a more specific pain medication following the procedure.

Reasons for Surgical Extractions

By taking an x-ray and examining your tooth, your dentist can usually determine whether or not your extraction will be simple or surgical. But there are times when a simple extraction turns into a surgical. If a tooth breaks off during the procedure, for instance, it may need to be taken out in pieces.

Wisdom teeth often face surgical extraction because they're usually impacted, meaning they are not completely erupted into the mouth. This condition requires cutting through bone and tissue. Removing severely broken down teeth, root tips or teeth with long-curved roots are other examples of surgical extractions. Then there are times when the bone around a tooth has become dense, resulting in the need for surgical treatment.

Post-Extraction Instructions

With surgical extractions, you'll most likely have one or more stitches at the extraction site. Regardless of whether your extraction is simple or surgical, it's always important to closely follow your dentist's after-care instructions to speed recovery and avoid any complications. The Reading Oral Surgery Group recommends the following:

  • Bite down on a gauze pad for 30 minutes after the extraction to help stop the bleeding.
  • Avoid unnecessary talking, eating and drinking for the first two hours after extraction.
  • Drink plenty of lukewarm or cold liquids after the bleeding subsides.
  • Maintain your diet, but start with clear liquids and soft foods for the first day.
  • Don't rinse or brush your teeth for 12 hours.
  • Avoid the surgical area when brushing, although you can gently rinse with a diluted mouthwash or 1/4 teaspoon of table salt in a glass of lukewarm water
  • Don't use straws, smoke or spit forcefully as long as there is bleeding.
  • Follow your dentist's instructions on using any prescribed pain medications.
  • Call your dentist if you have any persistent pain or bleeding.

The surgical extraction of teeth may sound a bit daunting, but with today's modern procedures and anesthesia, you have nothing to worry about. Afterwards, you and your dentist can discuss tooth replacement options to restore the function and beauty to your smile.