Tooth extraction is the removal of a tooth from its socket and is often necessary when severe decay or damage is present. Dentists typically attempt to repair the damage first before resorting to extraction. Sometimes, despite all efforts to the save the natural tooth, removal is the only option.
What are the reasons for tooth extractions?
The reasons for having a tooth extracted include:
- Decay or damage that cannot be repaired
- Loose teeth that cannot be saved
- Extra teeth that are blocking other teeth from erupting properly
- Impacted wisdom teeth
- Teeth that have become a source of infection
- Baby teeth that require removal to make room for permanent teeth
- Teeth that must be removed in to create space for orthodontic work
- Teeth that have become infected as a result of cancer drugs Your dentist will be able to evaluate your individual concerns and determine if tooth extraction is necessary to correct your condition.
How can you prepare for a tooth extraction?
Your dentist will take X-rays to determine the best method of extraction. Since extraction is a surgical procedure, it is important to let your dentist know if you are taking any medications that could create complications. In some cases, antibiotics may be prescribed prior to minimize the risk of infection. If you are a smoker, it is recommended you refrain from smoking the day of your procedure. Whether your dentist administers local or general anesthesia, you should have someone else drive you home.
What is the procedure involved in having a tooth extracted?
Typically, the surgery is performed with local anesthesia. A weak general anesthetic, such as nitrous oxide (laughing gas) may also be used for more complex extractions. Tooth extractions are performed in two different ways. A simple extraction is more commonly performed and is done when the tooth is easily visible. The tooth is loosened and then removed with the use of forceps. A surgical extraction is more complex and can involve a small incision into the gum tissue. Surgical extractions are used to remove teeth that have not erupted past the gum line. In some cases, the tooth needs to broken and removed in pieces. During surgical extractions, some small amount of bone surrounding the tooth may also need to be removed.
What can be expected after the procedure?
Pain, swelling and discomfort are to be expected after surgery and may persist for 3 to 4 days. Complete healing can take as long as a few weeks, especially for surgical extractions. In order to ensure proper healing, it is recommended you:
- Control swelling or bruising with an ice pack (20 minutes on and off)
- Rest the day of your surgery and avoid strenuous activity for 3 to 4 days
- Eat soft foods
- Maintain adequate fluid intake
- Rinse your mouth gently with saltwater
- Gently brush your teeth 24 hours after surgery
- Avoid using a straw since this can cause a condition called dry socket
- Avoid sticky or hard foods that may irritate your wound
- Do not smoke for the first three days after surgery
Pain medication may be prescribed to help control any discomfort, though many people find sufficient relief with over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol or Advil. Immediate medical attention is needed, however, if you have a fever, excessive bleeding or pus oozing from your wound, severe pain, persistent numbness or difficulty swallowing and breathing. These symptoms may indicate the presence of an infection or another serious complication. Tooth extraction is a routine procedure that does not typically cause complications. Many dentists, however, may want a follow-up appointment to make sure proper healing is taking place.