No one relishes the idea of needing a tooth extraction, but this is actually a very common procedure that is employed for reasons like:
- Severe tooth decay or infection
- Periodontal disease
- Trauma that causes irreparable damage
- Impacted wisdom teeth
- To make room for an orthodontic appliance
- To allow for the fitting of dentures or dental implants
Dentists perform extractions in one of two ways: routine or surgical.
As the name suggests, a routine extraction is the most basic type of tooth extraction. This procedure is performed under a local anesthetic, so you will not experience any pain, yet you will still be aware of what is going on.
Your dentist will use specialized instruments to loosen the tooth or rock it back and forth. After loosening the tooth, it can be pulled straight out using dental forceps. Since you will be under a local anesthetic, you will only feel some pressure during the procedure, which should only last for a few minutes.
In the case of an impacted tooth, or one that has broken off under the gum line, a more complex surgical extraction may be necessary. This involves cutting down into the gum tissue to access the tooth that will be extracted. If the tooth is a large one, it may be cut into smaller pieces for easier removal.
Some complex tooth extractions must be performed under general anesthesia. So you would be asleep the entire time.
If a child requires an extraction, it is more common for them to receive general anesthesia, particularly when more than one tooth requires removal. This is because the process can be traumatic for a young child. Using general anesthesia ensures that they will not remember anything.
Once the tooth has been removed, your dentist will thoroughly clean the empty socket to ensure that no bone fragments or tissue remains. They will then stitch up your gums if necessary. This is something that always happens following a surgical incision. Your stitches may be of a type that dissolves on their own after a week or so.
Once your tooth has been extracted, a blood clot will be forming within the empty socket. It is extremely important that you ensure that this blood clot does not become dislodged, which would expose the socket and be extremely painful. Known as “dry socket,” the condition would require additional dental care.
Preventing Dry Socket
To help prevent dry socket, avoid using straws. The suction action of drinking straws can easily dislodge the blood clot that should remain in place to prevent dry socket. Wait at least a week before using drinking straws again.
Those who smoke tobacco products are at a greater risk of developing dry socket following an extraction. In fact, dry socket occurs among smokers at three times the rate of non-smokers.
Finally, it helps to eat only soft foods for 24 hours after an extraction. So stick to foods like yogurt, applesauce and mashed potatoes. On the second day, you can try eating somewhat more solid foods if you are not experiencing any pain.