What Is Tooth Extraction?
While tooth extraction may be considered a common procedure, it’s not something most of us have to deal with all that frequently. And, for those who have never had a tooth pulled, or just fear dentists in general, it can be a real cause for anxiety. Regardless of where you stand when it comes to handling, or just fearing pain, it’s helpful to learn more about the process.
Tooth extraction is really just another way of saying pulling teeth. Simply put, it is a procedure that removes a tooth from its socket when that tooth cannot be repaired. There are two types of tooth extraction (simple extraction and surgical extraction) with simple extraction being the most common, and surgical extraction required only if the tooth is broken, or still beneath the gum and hard to access.
Does It Really Need to Go?
A reputable dentist will try to remedy a tooth issue before suggesting a tooth extraction. There are a number of reasons why your dentist might suggest you have a tooth pulled, including:
Your tooth is so damaged or decayed that it can’t be repaired with fillings or crowns.
Your mouth is so crowded that a tooth can’t break through the gum line or teeth are unable to grow straight.
An infection has spread to the pulp of the tooth and can’t be cured by antibiotics.
Your wisdom teeth that are impacted or infected, or you have baby teeth that don’t fall out on their own.
Will it hurt? Does it have to?
Most people’s first question about tooth extraction is, “Will it hurt?” The short answer, not really. If you’re feeling a bit anxious about getting a tooth pulled, rest assured that your dentist will do everything he or she can to keep you as comfortable as possible. Communicating your fears to your dentist can also help make the process less scary. In most cases, your dentist will give you a local anesthetic to numb the area where the tooth is being pulled. You’re more likely to be given a general anesthetic to put you to sleep during the procedure if you’re getting a surgical extraction, such as wisdom teeth removal.
Pain-Free Tooth Extraction? Really?
You really shouldn’t feel any pain during the extraction itself. What you are likely to feel, is a moment of discomfort while you are being given the local anesthetic. And rather than pain during the procedure, you are most likely to feel some pressure as the dentist moves the tooth around in order to extract it. In the unlikely event that you do feel actual pain after receiving the anesthetic, tell your dentist in order to wait a bit longer, or maybe even give you a little more.
How Does It Work?
Before the extraction, your dentist will take an x-ray of your mouth to help decide the best way to treat the tooth. He or she is also likely to ask you about any medications you’re taking or any illnesses you’re suffering from, as this can affect the way you react to anesthetic.
In a simple extraction, the dentist will use a tool called an elevator to loosen the tooth. The dentist may even move the tooth side to side a bit before removing it with forceps. If you require surgical extraction, the dentist will cut away the gum that’s covering the area first. If necessary, the dentist may then close the area with dissolving stitches.
What About Afterwards?
After your tooth extraction, you’ll notice that the area is pretty sensitive. We won’t judge you if you baby it. It’s been through a lot! Eat only soft foods or liquids, and avoid anything hot or particularly cold. You should also avoid smoking or using a straw for the 24-hours following your procedure because this can dislodge the blood clot that’s helping the area to heal.
And it is perfectly okay, and important, to continue with your dental hygiene. Go ahead and brush and floss your teeth – just not in the area around where your tooth was pulled. Rinsing with warm salt water will help you to keep that part of your mouth clean.
Okay, NOW It Hurts. What Can I Do?
While it’s highly unlikely to feel any pain during the procedure, it is normal to experience some mild pain or discomfort during the recovery period. Often an over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen will do the trick in alleviating the pain. Additionally, applying an ice-pack or cold compress for about ten minutes at a time can also take care of any swelling of the area.
If you do need something stronger, your dentist may prescribe you an appropriate NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). And if the pain is severe, you should contact your dentist immediately, as it may be an indicator that you have developed dry socket (a rare condition that occurs when a blood clot fails to form, leaving the bone exposed).
Don’t let the fear of pain keep you from getting the treatment you need. Take comfort in knowing that this common procedure means that your dentist is likely to have a proven process in place for both the procedure and the recovery. Use the information you now know about tooth extraction to talk to your dentist about what you can expect.