Tooth Extractions

Perhaps you have a tooth that has been severely damaged by trauma or decay; or an impacted wisdom tooth that may cause trouble for you later on. Maybe your teenager will soon undergo orthodontic treatment and has insignificant space for his adult teeth, referred to as crowding. Or your younger child has a baby tooth that’s stubbornly adhering, even though it’s past time for it to go.

Whatever the reason, tooth extraction is more often than not a very routine procedure. How straightforward this minor surgery is will depend on where the tooth to be extracted is located in the mouth, and what its roots are like. For example, a front tooth with a single straight root is easier to remove than a molar with multiple roots. This is especially true when that molar is a wisdom tooth that is impacted, meaning it is below the surface surrounded by gum tissue and bone. Often, a wisdom tooth is blocked from fully erupting (growing in) by other teeth in its path.

Still, tooth extraction is nothing to be feared when done by an experienced hand. Keep in mind that a tooth is not rigidly fixed in its surrounding bone, though that’s how some may picture it. In fact, it is attached to the bone via a network of fibers that form what’s known as the periodontal ligament. By carefully manipulating the tooth, these fibers can be detached and the tooth freed without much trouble.

dentist with blue gloves pointing at a client's teeth
female dentist checking the teeth of a female patient

The Process of Extracting a Tooth

Perhaps you have a tooth that has been severely damaged by trauma or decay; or an impacted wisdom tooth that may cause trouble for you later on. Maybe your teenager will soon undergo orthodontic treatment and has insignificant space for his adult teeth, referred to as crowding. Or your younger child has a baby tooth that’s stubbornly adhering, even though it’s past time for it to go.

Whatever the reason, tooth extraction is more often than not a very routine procedure. How straightforward this minor surgery is will depend on where the tooth to be extracted is located in the mouth, and what its roots are like. For example, a front tooth with a single straight root is easier to remove than a molar with multiple roots. This is especially true when that molar is a wisdom tooth that is impacted, meaning it is below the surface surrounded by gum tissue and bone. Often, a wisdom tooth is blocked from fully erupting (growing in) by other teeth in its path.

Still, tooth extraction is nothing to be feared when done by an experienced hand. Keep in mind that a tooth is not rigidly fixed in its surrounding bone, though that’s how some may picture it. In fact, it is attached to the bone via a network of fibers that form what’s known as the periodontal ligament. By carefully manipulating the tooth, these fibers can be detached and the tooth freed without much trouble.

How to Know That You Need a Tooth Pulled

There are several potential indications that you may need a tooth extraction. Some of the most common reasons include:

Severe tooth decay: When a tooth is severely decayed and can’t be saved with a filling or crown, it may need to be extracted to prevent further damage to the surrounding teeth and gums.

Gum disease: Advanced gum disease can cause teeth to become loose and unstable, and extraction may be necessary to prevent the spread of infection to other teeth and gums.

Crowding: If you have too many teeth in your mouth, or your teeth are too large, it may be necessary to extract one or more teeth to create space and improve alignment.

Impacted wisdom teeth: Wisdom teeth that don’t fully emerge or grow in at an angle can cause pain, infection, and damage to nearby teeth, and may need to be extracted.

Infection: If a tooth becomes infected and the infection spreads to the surrounding gums and bone, extraction may be necessary to prevent further damage and protect your overall health.

Trauma: If a tooth is damaged or broken beyond repair due to injury or trauma, it may need to be extracted to prevent further damage and reduce the risk of infection.

Orthodontic treatment: Sometimes, teeth need to be extracted as part of orthodontic treatment to make room for braces or other corrective appliances.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a dentist for an evaluation to determine if tooth extraction is the best course of treatment for your needs.

Tooth Extraction

Tooth extraction is a dental procedure in which a tooth is removed from its socket in the jawbone. The procedure is typically performed by a dentist or oral surgeon and can be done under local anesthesia, conscious sedation, or general anesthesia, depending on the complexity of the extraction and the patient’s preferences.

Steps of the Tooth Extraction Procedure

Following the procedure, patients are typically advised to avoid eating or drinking for a few hours and to rest for the remainder of the day. Pain and swelling can be managed with over-the-counter pain medication and ice packs, and the dentist will provide detailed instructions on how to care for the extraction site to promote healing and prevent infection. With proper care, most patients recover from a tooth extraction within a few days to a week.

What to Expect After Tooth Extraction

Immediately after your tooth is extracted, the socket will be covered with sterile gauze; gentle pressure will be applied for 10-20 minutes to control any bleeding. Small sutures (stitches) might also be used for this purpose. It’s normal to experience some mild to moderate post-operative discomfort and/or swelling. Taking non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and/or aspirin the day of surgery should control most symptoms. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to ensure infection-free healing. Using ice packs on the outside of your jaw, and eating softer foods until you feel more comfortable can also be helpful. Within a few days, all should be back to normal.

woman pointing to her smile

How To Recover From a Tooth Extraction

Recovering from a tooth extraction can take a few days to a week, depending on the complexity of the procedure and the patient’s overall health. Here are some tips on how to recover from a tooth extraction:

  • Follow your dentist’s instructions: Your dentist will provide you with detailed instructions on how to care for the extraction site and what to expect during the recovery period. Be sure to follow these instructions carefully to promote healing and prevent complications.
  • Rest and take it easy: Avoid strenuous activity for the first 24-48 hours after the procedure. Resting will help you recover more quickly and reduce the risk of complications.
  • Apply ice packs: Use ice packs or a cold compress on your cheek near the extraction site for 10-20 minutes at a time to reduce swelling and discomfort.
  • Avoid smoking and using a straw: Smoking and using a straw can dislodge the blood clot that forms in the extraction site, which can lead to a painful condition known as dry socket. It’s best to avoid smoking and using a straw for at least 24-48 hours after the procedure.
  • Eat soft foods: Stick to soft, easy-to-chew foods for the first few days after the procedure, such as soup, yogurt, mashed potatoes, and smoothies. Avoid hard or crunchy foods that could irritate the extraction site.
  • Keep the extraction site clean: After 24 hours, you can gently rinse your mouth with saltwater to help keep the extraction site clean and prevent infection. Be sure to brush and floss your teeth carefully, avoiding the extraction site.
  • Take pain medication as directed: Your dentist may prescribe pain medication or recommend over-the-counter pain relievers to help manage any discomfort. Be sure to take these medications as directed and do not exceed the recommended dosage.

By following these tips, you can help promote healing and recovery after a tooth extraction. If you experience severe pain, bleeding, or other symptoms, be sure to contact your dentist for advice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Reason for tooth extraction?

As mentioned above, there can be a variety of reasons for extracting a tooth. Be sure to ask questions about the pros and cons of any dental treatment, including extraction.

Trauma or Disease — In both of these situations, there are several ways to try and save the tooth. The damaged tooth might need a full-coverage crown, a root canal treatment, or both. But sometimes even these methods are not enough to keep the tooth functioning well and looking good; it might be better to remove the tooth and replace it with a strong and lifelike dental implant.

Orthodontic Treatment — Teeth are sometimes extracted when there are too many of them for the size of the dental arches (jaws), a situation known as crowding. After an adequate amount of space is opened up through the extraction of one or more teeth, the remaining teeth can be aligned properly. The teeth most frequently removed for orthodontic reasons are the first premolars, which are right next to the eyeteeth (canines).

Impacted Wisdom Teeth — Early removal of impacted wisdom teeth can prevent damage to neighboring healthy teeth, bone, gum tissue, even nerves, and blood vessels. If an impacted wisdom tooth is in a bad position, it’s best to remove it before its roots are fully formed.

Baby Teeth — If a baby tooth is out of position or not lost in the right sequence, the permanent tooth underneath it might not erupt normally. In this case, removing the baby tooth could prevent a need for orthodontic treatment later on.

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