If the image of dental tools conjures fear of visiting the dentist, the idea of facing a tooth extraction might be particularly nerve wracking. An overview of the process, especially of the tooth extraction tools your dentist will use, and how they're used, may help to quell your nerves and prepare you for your next appointment.
Simple Extractions vs. Surgical Extractions
A simple extraction involves a tooth that is visible in your mouth. If your dentist needs to perform a simple extraction, the actual procedure is relatively quick and requires only two tools: an elevator to help loosen the tooth and extraction forceps to extract it. A surgical extraction is a more involved procedure that's necessary when a tooth is either broken or has not erupted through the gums and requires an incision into the gums to extract the tooth. In this case, an oral surgeon is the ideal dental specialist to extract the tooth.
Basic Set-up of Tooth Extraction Tools
Before the procedure, the dental assistant will prepare a dental tray with the extraction tools your dentist or oral surgeon will use. Don't be alarmed by the full tray of sterilized tools. Remember that each tool has a unique function in ensuring the process is smooth and safe.
According to The University of California, San Diego Pre-Dental Society (UCSD), an extraction tray may include the following tools:
- Cotton rolls
- Topical numbing agent
- Anesthesia needle
- Small elevator and large elevator
- Periosteal elevator
- Surgical curette
How the Tools Are Used
First, the dentist will apply a topical numbing agent with a cotton swab. This will numb the outer area to lessen the sensation of the anesthesia shot when it is placed into the gum tissue. The anesthetic cartridge is then placed into a dental syringe, which is a plunger with a ring on the end, and the needle is inserted on the end, per UCSD. A longer needle is used for bottom teeth and a shorter one for top teeth.
Through the procedure, oblong cotton rolls may be inserted into your mouth to maintain access and help cut down on the overflow of saliva. A small angled mirror and explorer, or a pencil-shaped tool that's hooked on the end, are staples of most dental trays. These allow your dentist a clear view of and access to your mouth and teeth.
After administering anesthesia, your dentist will work to loosen the tooth using an elevator tool. There are a few types of elevators. Depending on the location of the tooth and complexity of the procedure, your dentist will opt for a short or long elevator. The tip can look like a hook, a blunt scoop – like a periosteal elevator – or like a flathead screwdriver at the end. These help expand the tooth's socket and to eventually remove the tooth. If a tooth is under the gumline, your dentist or oral surgeon will need to cut into the gums using a scalpel, which has a sharp tip on the end.
To extract, your dentist will use forceps. There are various types of forceps. Some have sharp tweezer-like tips and others have blunt, clamp-like tips similar to pliers. Some are shaped to better grip teeth on the right or the left side of your mouth. After the tooth is removed, your dentist will use gauze to help stop bleeding in the area.
What to Expect During the Procedure
Your dentist will need to use pressure and some degree of force during the procedure, and it's common and normal to feel the pressure, but not the pain. The dental hygienist will use an irrigating nozzle and hose to help the area stay moistened and for clearing the site during the procedure.
You will not be able to brush the area around the extraction for 24 hours. But in the long-term, use products which remove bacteria from teeth, tongue, cheeks, and gums, to keep your mouth healthy.