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Tooth Extractions: What You Need To Know

If your dentist recommends tooth extraction, it may seem a little worrying, but it is a standard dental procedure. You may need a tooth extracted if you have an infection, decayed tooth or if your wisdom teeth are coming in. Learn more in this guide to tooth extraction so you can prepare for your upcoming process.

When Is a Tooth Extraction Necessary?

Your dentist can recommend extracting a damaged tooth if they cannot fix it with a filling, crown, or other dental treatment. Or they may recommend extraction when there isn't enough room for all your teeth in your mouth. There are other reasons tooth extraction might be necessary, such as:

  • Tooth decay or infection has reached deep into the tooth
  • Baby teeth aren't falling out in time for the permanent teeth to grow in
  • Orthodontic treatment like braces may work better if there is more room in the mouth
  • Wisdom teeth are coming in during the patient's late teens or early 20s, and there is not enough room in the mouth

Tooth Extraction Process

There are two types of tooth extraction procedures. Your dentist can do a simple extraction. During a simple extraction, your dentist will numb the area, loosen the tooth with an instrument called an elevator, then remove it with dental forceps.

Your dentist may prescribe a surgical extraction if a tooth is broken off at the gumline or has not grown fully into the mouth yet. Oral surgeons and dentists can perform surgical extractions. During a surgical extraction, the surgeon 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.

Tooth Extraction Preparation

Before your dentist removes a tooth, they will review your medical and dental history to ensure that you do not have any allergies or pre-existing conditions that could cause a complication during the procedure. They will also take X-rays of the area to study the tooth's shape and position. Your dentist will estimate the procedure's difficulty and then decide whether to refer you to an oral surgeon or complete it.

During a simple extraction, your dentist will use a local anesthetic to numb the area around your tooth. During a surgical extraction, the oral surgeon may use intravenous (IV) anesthesia instead. If your oral surgeon uses IV sedation, ensure you have a ride home after the procedure because it will not be safe to drive.

Tooth Extraction Healing

Tooth extraction healing time can be between a few days to a couple of weeks. The most important thing to do after a tooth extraction is keeping the area clean to prevent infection. Immediately following the procedure, your dentist will place a gauze piece to keep on the extraction site for up to 45 minutes to limit bleeding while clotting takes place.

According to BMJ, it's normal to have some oozing from a tooth socket in the first 12-24 hours after an extraction. However, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews says that it is abnormal for bleeding to continue without clot formation or last beyond 8 to 12 hours. If you find yourself with prolonged bleeding, you should call your oral surgeon immediately. You shouldn't smoke for the next 24 hours, rinse your mouth vigorously or brush the teeth next to the extraction site.

How Long Does the Pain Last After Tooth Extraction?

After the numbing wears off, you can expect some pain and discomfort. In some cases, your dentist will recommend over-the-counter pain medicine or prescribe one. Applying an ice pack or cold compress can help reduce swelling. You should also limit strenuous activity, avoid hot liquids, and drinking through a straw. Typically, pain should lessen within three days to two weeks. Yet, if you experience severe pain or excessive bleeding several hours after your tooth extraction, call your dentist or oral surgeon immediately.

What Should a Tooth Extraction Look Like When Healing?

A healing tooth extraction site will have a blood clot over the area, protecting the exposed bone or nerve from air and debris. Your body will take care of the rest. If you worry that the blood clot has been dislodged, call your dentist because you may have a dry socket.

Follow your dentist's recommendations before and after the procedure to ensure your extraction site heals well. Ask your dentist more questions about the tooth extraction procedure they recommend and how it will resolve your oral care issues.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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