Tooth extraction is the removal of a tooth from its socket in the bone. If you are facing a tooth extraction, it can seem a little daunting and nerve-wracking. But did you know that tooth extraction is a fairly standard dental procedure? Let’s face the fear together. Take a look at our what’s-what guide on tooth extraction to help you prepare for your upcoming procedure.
When Is Tooth Extraction Necessary?
In many cases, teeth that are broken or damaged by decay can be fixed with a filling, crown, or other dental treatment. Sometimes, though, the damage is too severe to repair, so your dentist will recommend extraction.
Here are some other reasons tooth extraction might be necessary:
- Decay has reached deep into the tooth
- Infection has destroyed a large portion of the tooth or the surrounding bone
- There isn’t enough room for all the teeth in your mouth
- Extra teeth block other teeth from coming in
- Baby teeth don't fall out in time for the permanent teeth to come in
- People getting braces or other orthodontic treatment may need teeth extracted to create room for the teeth that will be moved into place.
- Wisdom teeth, also called third molars, are often extracted either before or after they come in during the late teens or early 20s.
Before a tooth is removed, your dentist will thoroughly review your medical and dental history and take the appropriate X-rays. X-rays reveal the length, shape, and position of the tooth and surrounding bone. From this information, your dentist can estimate the degree of difficulty of the procedure and decide whether to refer you to an oral surgeon.
Before removal during a simple extraction, the area around your infected tooth will be numbed using local anesthetic. However, during a more complicated removal, called a surgical extraction, your dentist or oral surgeon may administer intravenous (IV) anesthesia, which can range from conscious sedation to general anesthesia, which will put you to sleep. If this is the case, arrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure and stay with you until your sedation wears off.
Tooth Extraction Process
There are two types of extractions you might have:
- A simple extraction is performed on a tooth that can be seen in the mouth. It’s common for a general dentist to perform simple extractions. During a simple extraction, your dentist will numb the tooth and gum tissue and loosen the tooth with an instrument called an elevator before removing it with dental forceps.
- A surgical extraction is a more complex procedure that is used for a tooth that may have broken off at the gumline or has not come into the mouth yet. Oral surgeons usually perform surgical extractions. However, they can also be done by general dentists. During a surgical extraction, the doctor will make a small incision (cut) into your gum and remove the underlying tooth. Sometimes they will need to remove some of the bone around the tooth or cut the tooth in half to extract it.
After the Extraction
The most important thing to keep up with after a tooth extraction is keeping the area clean and preventing infection. Immediately following the procedure, your dentist will ask you to bite down gently on a piece of dry, sterile gauze, which you should keep in place for up to 30 to 45 minutes to limit bleeding, while clotting takes place. For the next 24 hours, you shouldn't smoke, rinse your mouth vigorously, or clean the teeth next to the extraction site.
You can expect a certain amount of pain and discomfort following an extraction. In some cases, your dentist will recommend a pain killer or prescribe one for you. It might help to apply an ice pack to your cheek for 15 minutes at a time. You should also limit strenuous activity, as well as avoid hot liquids and not drink through a straw. Under normal circumstances, discomfort should lessen within three days to two weeks. However, if you experience prolonged or severe pain, swelling, bleeding, or fever, call your dentist or oral surgeon immediately.
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a tooth extraction newbie, your best bet for a successful and uncomplicated procedure is to follow your dentist’s recommendations carefully before and after the procedure. Tooth extraction makes room for something better and can help keep your smile healthy and confident.