A tooth extraction is a procedure performed by a dentist or an oral surgeon if a tooth is infected, damaged beyond repair, or causing other problems within the mouth. Having a tooth pulled is generally a simple and comfortable procedure, although the healing process may take several weeks for larger or infected teeth.
Extractions can be performed on a tooth at any stage in life, including baby teeth, permanent teeth, and wisdom teeth. For baby teeth and some permanent teeth, a dentist will use a local anesthetic, which numbs the area around the tooth before it is removed. Often, this procedure is relatively painless and healing takes only a few days. For infected or painful teeth, impacted teeth, or larger permanent teeth like molars and wisdom teeth, your dentist may recommend a general anesthetic, which allows you to sleep through the procedure free of pain. Healing for these larger extractions can take one to two weeks.
If a tooth is impacted (fully or partially under the gums) or especially difficult to remove, a dentist will remove the surrounding gum to dislodge the tooth. These procedures are almost always performed with a strong general anesthesia.
Benefits of Tooth Extraction
A dentist will recommend a tooth extraction if a root canal or other minor procedure cannot repair the damages to the tooth. Teeth are extracted in order to create a healthier or more aesthetically pleasing smile.
- Even Spacing. If teeth become misaligned due to overcrowding, your dentist may recommend extraction of one or more teeth. This will allow for even spacing between the teeth, a healthier bite, and less pain.
- Reduced Risk of Infection. If a tooth is infected, a root canal can often remove the damaged part of the tooth without the needing a full extraction. However, if the infection is severe enough to survive antibiotics, your dentist may choose to extract the entire tooth to prevent the spread of infection. If your immune system is compromised, your dentist may recommend removing even a mildly infected tooth in order to prevent the infection from entering the blood stream.
Wisdom Teeth Extraction
“Wisdom teeth” are the often-problematic set of molars that come in between the ages of 16-25. More often than not, dentists recommend extracting the wisdom teeth because they tend to cause problems as they grow in. Most commonly, your wisdom teeth will become impacted, or trapped beneath the gums, which can cause jaw pain; they may come in at the wrong angle, or your mouth may not have room for any more teeth. Wisdom teeth are also at a higher risk for infections, because they are difficult to keep clean.
This procedure usually lasts less than an hour and many dentists administer general anesthesia, allowing patients to sleep through their procedures. After your dentist removes the tooth or teeth, he or she will sew up the wound with dissolvable stitches. Most patients experience very little pain after a wisdom tooth extraction, but soreness and discomfort may last for several days or weeks. Occasionally a dentist will prescribe a more powerful pain medication for the first few days after the extraction, but most pain can be relieved with over-the-counter painkillers as directed by your dentist.
Aftercare of a Tooth Extraction
Tooth extraction is generally a safe and easy procedure. However, improper care of your gums after a tooth extraction can lead to infection and pain. Once a tooth is removed, your dentist will supply a gauze pad to the extraction site, which will help stop the bleeding and keep the wound clean for a short period of time. Once the bleeding stops, the gauze can be removed from the socket. If the tooth was especially large or impacted, your dentist will stitch the wound shut; these stitches dissolve after a few days and aid the healing process. For a few days after your extraction, following these simple steps will ensure a speedy recovery:
- Eat soft foods, and don’t drink through a straw, which can cause “dry sockets,” a painful complication from tooth extraction.
- Use an ice pack as needed to reduce swelling and pain.
- Avoid smoking for the first few days after an extraction.
- Take pain medication as directed by your dentist.
- Rest and relax: don’t try to exert yourself for the first day after your extraction, as this could increase bleeding to the wound and cause more pain.
- Brush and floss your teeth well, but avoid the extraction site for the first few days. Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and reduce the risk of infection.
If you’ve been considering a tooth extraction or have infected teeth, an overcrowded mouth, or severe tooth damage, schedule an appointment with one of the dentists at TruBlu Dentistry to discuss your extraction options and determine which procedure is best for you.