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A tooth extraction occurs when a dentist or oral surgeon removes a tooth from its socket within the bone. A tooth that is broken or decayed is usually fixed when a dentist applies a crown, filling, or performs some other dental procedure. When the tooth is too damaged for these procedures to work, a dentist often decides to perform a tooth extraction.
There are other reasons for a dentist or oral surgeon to extract a tooth. If a patient has teeth that prohibit other teeth from growing, the dentist will often recommend a tooth extraction. If a patient needs braces, a dentist may extract teeth to make more room for the teeth being adjusted.
Interestingly, a patient receiving radiation treatment to the neck or head will sometimes need to have teeth extracted. Organ transplant patients will get teeth extracted if specific teeth could cause infection. Such patients are highly susceptible to dangerous infections because they take medication that combats against the immune system.
One of the most common reasons a dentist will extract a tooth is because of the appearance of wisdom teeth. A dentist will often extract wisdom teeth either before or after they grow into the mouth. Wisdom teeth sometimes get trapped or impacted inside a jaw and cannot grow, causing them to become painful. Other teeth in the mouth may block the growth of the wisdom teeth, resulting in pain and swelling of the gums. In these cases, the dentist will extract the teeth.
There are two types of extractions: simple and surgical. A simple extraction is used when the dentist can easily see the offending tooth inside the mouth. In a simple tooth extraction, the dentist injects local anesthesia into the mouth. She uses forceps to grip the tooth and loosens it by moving the forceps back and forth. Using the forceps helps to extract the tooth.
A surgical extraction is performed by oral surgeons and is employed when the tooth is not easily seen inside the mouth. Perhaps it hasn't yet fully grown into the mouth, or it may have broken off at the gum. At any rate, the oral surgeon cuts and pulls back the gums in order to reveal the problem. The surgeon can then see well enough to remove the bone or piece of tooth.
Patients who need to undergo a surgical tooth extraction may be given conscious sedation if they experience anxiety over dental procedures. Small children and other patients with special medical conditions may be provided general anesthesia.
After a tooth extraction, the dentist or oral surgeon will ask the patient to bite on a piece of gauze for about 20 to 30 minutes so that pressure is placed on the area. This pressure allows the blood to clot. A surgical extraction is more complex than a simple procedure, so a patient may experience more pain. The oral surgeon might prescribe pain medication for several days, and then switch her to a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). If strong medication isn't necessary, the dentist will tell the patient to take an NSAID or ibuprofen.
When a patient returns home, she should use an ice pack on her face since it reduces swelling after the operation. Once the swelling leaves, the patient can use warm compresses if her jaw remains sore or stiff. Twenty-four hours after the surgery, she should rinse her mouth with warm salt water to keep the area clean. Only soft, cold foods should be eaten for the first days after the dental procedure.
It usually takes about two weeks for the patient to completely heal after a tooth extraction. It's important not to smoke, spit, or use a straw after the dental procedure as this will only cause more bleeding. Speaking with a dental professional can help alleviate some of the anxiety associated with having a tooth extracted.