What is a dental extraction?
A dental extraction is the removal of a compromised tooth from the oral cavity. The procedure is usually performed with the aid of a numbing anesthetic applied by a licensed and experienced dentist. A dental extraction is typically performed in under an hour and generally requires a few days or more to recover.
Reasons for a Dental Extraction
There are a number of different situations that may eventually require the dental extraction of one or more teeth. In many cases a dental extraction is needed due to the presence oral injury, trauma or poor oral hygiene.
- Decay: If a dentist finds extensive tooth decay that permeates the tooth all the way to the center where the nerves are located, it can predispose the patient to infection. In severe cases of tooth decay in which other procedures do not effectively treat the decay, a dentist may recommend a dental extraction. If decay extends to the nerve and the patient can’t afford effective treatment such as a root canal, extraction may be the best option. Another situation that may result in extraction is if the tooth decay extends below the bone level.
- Infection: Any time there is an infection in a tooth, there can be severe consequences. While regular checkups with your dentist may help catch these infections and treat them accordingly, there are some instances in which patients will need to be watched more carefully for potential infection. These individuals that require a watchful eye are generally those who have an already compromised immune system due to chemotherapy or other medical procedures and conditions. One remedy to infection may be extraction. As infections are serious, it’s important to contact your dentist.
- Gum Disease: For patients who have developed periodontal disease which has gone largely untreated for an extended period of time, the infection of surrounding tissue may cause the loosening of teeth, which may eventually require the dental extraction of those teeth.
- Root Fracture: Root fracture is another reason to remove a tooth.
- Trauma: Cases of severe trauma are usually incurred in accidents such as sports injuries or something more austere. Depending on the seriousness of the trauma, the patient’s teeth, and the specific location of the oral injury, a dental extraction may be required.
- Overcrowding: Overcrowding is a common issue in adults and can cause decay as it’s difficult to thoroughly clean in between the teeth. Extraction in adults may limit the need for orthodontics.
- Extraction of Third Molars (Wisdom Teeth): Wisdom teeth extraction may be recommended due to the position of the teeth. Sometimes they may cause problems when erupting, such as side decay on adjacent teeth or crowding of other teeth.
- Extraction in Children: If children have a baby tooth with an exceptionally strong root, it may keep the adult tooth from coming in properly. In this case, extraction may be necessary to avoid overcrowding.
How is a dental extraction done?
After a dentist has identified one of the above situations as a cause for the dental extraction of one or more teeth, the office will often schedule you for a follow appointment for the extraction and provide you with an overview of the process so you will know what to expect. Before making this appointment, be sure to alert your dentist to any current medical conditions that may require an antibiotic to be administered days before the actual extraction. It’s important to mention the use of blood thinners, bisphosphonates and any other issues that may negatively impact healing.
While a dental extraction sounds painful, the application and injection of local anesthetic should sufficiently numb the tooth and surrounding area so that severe pain can be avoided. In many cases patients say that they felt no pain, but only pressure thanks to a well administered anesthetic.
The next steps often depend on the status of the tooth in question. If the tooth is impacted, a dentist must clear the gum tissue from that area to expose the tooth before they can gently apply pressure to wiggle it loose from the mouth.
The goal for any dental extraction is to remove the tooth in one piece. This is a much more fluid procedure that requires less time in the chair for patients. However, in some instances of severe decay or injury, a tooth may come out in pieces rather than whole. This type of situation is not necessarily common but should not pose a problem for an experienced dentist.
After the dental extraction of the tooth, patients can expect some bleeding. To help curb the bleeding, a dentist often packs the extraction site with gauze and applies pressure. While gauze and pressure most often slows and eventually stops the oral bleeding, some patients may require self-dissolving stitches to close the gums back up.
While dental extractions are generally a routine procedure for dentists that seldom result in serious complications, patients should keep the lines of communication open and promptly report any cause for concern such as additional bleeding or prolonged periods of pain.
Recovery From a Dental Extraction
Depending on the condition that necessitated the dental extraction, the smoothness of the procedure, and the individual patient, recovery time and methods may vary. The most commonly prescribed tips for recovery given by dentists usually include:
- Continue use of gauze pads (and replacing them if need be) for several hours after the procedure
- Apply an ice pack to the affected area as directed to help minimize swelling
- Treat the extraction site with extra care and gently rinse mouth with a saltwater solution when directed
- Rest with the head elevated for twenty-four hours or so after the procedure
- Eat soft foods for several days until extraction site begins healing
By knowing what to expect with the dental extraction of a tooth, the process should become less of a concern. Choose a licensed and experienced dentist to confidently guide you through the process from start to finish.