Getting a tooth removed is more common than some think; there are plenty of reasons you might need an extraction. Perhaps your tooth is too damaged to repair with fillings or crowns. Maybe it's a problem of overcrowding. Or, you may have decided that an extensive repair is too expensive or lengthy, and having the damaged tooth removed is simpler.
Whatever the reason, a dental extraction – performed at the hands of a skilled endodontist – usually requires few days of minor recovery, followed by a few weeks to heal. If you're feeling awkward about your smile or discomfort during those first few days, don't be afraid to discuss your treatment options with the dentist.
During the Extraction
Your dentist likely used a local anesthetic to maintain your comfort during the dental extraction itself, and you may have still felt numb directly after the procedure as the effect subsided. You should've also received a small square of gauze tucked into the space where your tooth used to be, which helps improve the clotting process once the tooth is removed. Keep in mind you'll need to leave the gauze in place for 30 to 45 minutes after your appointment, as cautioned the American Dental Association (ADA), after which time it's OK to remove. Just be aware that a small amount of bleeding can occur (and it is completely normal).
The First 24 Hours
The faster you heal, the closer you'll be to a more confident smile. Treat the extraction site with care for the next 24 hours and keep from rinsing your mouth or vigorously brushing the site of the extraction. You should also avoid irritants like smoking or using a straw, which could disrupt the newly formed blood clot protecting the site as it recovers, creating an infection and preventing you from getting the restoration you want. Remember that the longer it takes to recover, the longer you'll need to wait to have the extraction site repaired.
The Next Few Days
After the first 24 hours, you can resume your oral hygiene routine using gentle strokes of your soft-bristled Colgate® Wave Gum Comfort toothbrush, while still avoiding the extraction site for a couple more days. Call your dentist if you notice swelling, severe pain, excess bleeding, nausea or any of these worsening with time. These can all be signs of a potential infection and, of course, make it harder to reveal the perfect smile you started with.
Options after Healing
Whether or not the empty socket is visible, your new smile and the landscape of your mouth may take some getting used to. Luckily, you have options to help restore your smile following the extraction. Talk to your dentist and together you can come up with a solution that works for your lifestyle and oral health.
Remember, the extraction site must be healed before your dentist can go to work. This usually takes around six weeks, the University of Iowa College of Dentistry estimates, as bone must grow in to fortify the extraction site while new gum tissue develops to protect the socket. Once the site has healed, you can choose from options that reflect how many teeth you've had extracted and what your dentist believes will be the best version of restoration. These include:
- Dental implants. A metal post is attached into the newly formed bone and the site receives a singular crown to help fill in a gap. This works best if the extraction involved a single extracted tooth.
- Bridges. Dental bridges are used when one or two teeth are essentially anchored to the healthy teeth beside the site, which is helpful if you've had more than one tooth removed.
- Dentures. Full or partial dentures are used when several teeth have been removed. Dentures can be both removable or permanent; talk to your dentist to decide on the best option for you.
Having a tooth extracted may seem stressful, but your dentist wouldn't suggest the procedure unless it was the right course of action. It might change your smile for a few weeks, but with consistent aftercare, you'll be able to choose a restoration option that makes you feel confident about your new smile.