Tooth extraction is a procedure reserved for circumstances in which there is no other alternative. The primary reasons why we extract teeth are for damage and to alleviate crowding. In the case of damage, a tooth may be injured beyond repair or decayed to the point where it cannot be saved with restorative dental treatments. Teeth are extracted for crowding most often as part of an orthodontic treatment plan to create space for other teeth to move. Wisdom teeth may be extracted for both reasons—they are prone to decay and they also cause crowding in the mouth, forcing adjacent teeth to shift when they erupt.
What Happens During a Tooth Extraction?
Tooth extraction can be a simple dental procedure that is performed on an outpatient basis. Many patients only need a local anesthetic injection during their extractions, but depending on the complexity of your case and your level of anxiety, we may also use conscious sedation or even general anesthesia during the procedure. If you elect to stay awake during your extraction, you will not feel any pain, although you may feel some discomfort from the pressure and pulling you experience as we work.
Once your mouth is numb, we use a special dental instrument called an elevator to loosen the tooth that is being extracted. We then use forceps to remove the tooth. If sutures are needed, we stitch your gums to close the socket at this time and your procedure is complete.
If your tooth is fully or partially impacted (covered by gum and/or bone), a surgical extraction is needed; this is accomplished by making an incision into the gums and removing a small amount of bone to access the tooth, if needed. Surgical extractions are usually performed by oral surgeons using intravenous general anesthesia, while simple extractions can be done by a general dentist.
Tooth Extraction Aftercare
Tooth extraction is usually a safe procedure with minimal risk involved. During the days after your surgery, our goal is to prevent dry socket and infection, and also to keep you as comfortable as possible while you heal.
Ideally, a blood clot forms in the socket where your tooth was removed shortly after the extraction. This keeps your socket from bleeding. When a clot doesn’t form or if it becomes dislodged, the jaw bone can be exposed, leading to dry socket. To prevent this from occurring, we place gauze over the socket and ask you to bite down on it to promote the formation of a blood clot. To keep the clot from dislodging, do not use straws for a full day after your extraction and do not smoke.
We will provide you with guidelines for aftercare before you leave our office. These guidelines include:
- Use ice packs to alleviate any swelling.
- Take all of your medications as instructed.
- Do not overexert yourself or participate in rigorous exercise for a few days following the procedure. Use a pillow to elevate your head when you’re in bed.
- Eat soft foods for at least a day after your tooth extraction and don’t eat harder foods until you feel comfortable.
- Brush and floss as usual, avoiding the extraction site until it heals. Rinse with salt water as needed for the first 24 hours after your extraction.
If you have signs of an infection, including a foul odor or drainage coming from the extraction site, a fever or chills, and unusual bleeding or swelling, call our office immediately.