There might come a time in your life when your dentist recommends tooth extraction, also known as exodontia. Although dentists typically consider methods that will save a tooth like a root canal procedure before recommending an extraction, there are instances when the best option is to remove the tooth entirely. This may be the best course of action if you have a tooth that has a significant amount of decay or that's severely infected, an emerging tooth that has gotten stuck in the jaw or a tooth that is in the way of other teeth.
If your dentist recommends exodontia to you, it's important to understand who will perform the extraction, what can happen afterward and what you can do to avoid complications.
What to Expect During Exodontia
If your dentist recommends exodontia, there is a good reason. Tooth extraction is usually only performed when it's the best option for a patient. According to UT Health San Antonio Dentistry, you may feel some slight pressure during the procedure, but your dental professional will offer anesthesia to make sure you don't feel any pain.
A general dentist can extract teeth, as can an oral surgeon. Whether you're better off having your general dentist perform the extraction or seeing a specialist depends on the individual procedure. As the University of Utah Health notes, an oral surgeon typically has training in the use of IV sedation, a technique that allows you to sleep for the duration of the procedure. Oral surgeons also complete years of training beyond dental school. Their additional training centers on procedures like wisdom tooth removal, while general dentists focus on crowns and fillings.
There's always a small risk of complications during and after any medical or dental procedure. A two-part study published in the Swiss Dental Journal found that complications occurred in about 8 percent of cases of wisdom tooth removal.
One of the most common complications was dry socket, which made up half of the complications for patients who had wisdom teeth removed from the lower jaw. Dry socket was less common for wisdom tooth extractions from the upper jaw, affecting only 0.4 percent of cases, according to part two of the Swiss Dental Journal study. Dry socket develops when the blood clot that formed in the space that once held the tooth becomes loose or breaks away from the socket. This exposes the underlying bone and nerves in the area, which can cause considerable discomfort.
As a letter published in the British Dental Journal notes, dry socket may be confused with infection of the socket after tooth extraction. While it is rare for a dry socket to become infected, your dental professional usually prescribes antibiotics prior to wisdom tooth extraction to prevent an infection from occurring after the surgery. Signs of an infection include fever and white or yellow discharge at the extraction site, according to the National Health Service (NHS). Contact your dental professional if you notice either of these symptoms.
Nerve damage is another uncommon complication of tooth extraction. The NHS notes that the trigeminal nerve (a cranial nerve that plays a role in your ability to chew) can be damaged during the extraction procedure, leading to symptoms such as numbness, tingling or pain in the lips, chin, gums, teeth and tongue. The NHS points out that the damage is usually temporary and that symptoms typically resolve as the nerve heals after a few weeks or months. When performing a tooth extraction, your dental professional will always take precautions to avoid potential nerve damage.
Minimizing Your Risk of Complications
If you are concerned about problems occurring after the removal of a tooth, keep in mind that complications are relatively rare: The Swiss Dental Journal study found complications in 8 percent of extractions.
There are ways to further minimize the risk of complications. Choosing a provider who specializes in tooth extraction might put your mind at ease. An oral surgeon will have extensive training and experience with extractions, as well as the ability to provide anesthetic options to keep you comfortable during the procedure. Further, there are ways to prevent dry socket, including eating soft foods, avoiding tobacco products and taking care when cleaning your mouth.
The dental professional performing the extraction might prescribe a course of antibiotics or painkillers after the procedure, according to the Government of Alberta, so take all medications as directed. Be sure to talk to your dentist about what you can do before and after the tooth removal to protect the area and reduce the risk of complications.