A tooth extraction is an outpatient procedure performed by a dentist. In some cases pulling teeth (removing a tooth completely from its spot in the jaw bone), may be necessary to preserve or improve your dental health.
Some of the reasons for tooth extraction include:
- Pulling teeth for braces: Preparation for orthodontia (braces and retainers) often involves pulling one tooth or a few teeth.
- Pulling teeth to save space: Wisdom teeth are often removed if there is no space for them in the mouth, or if they become impacted or infected.
- Pulling teeth due to damage or decay: Tooth extraction may be the only option if a tooth is too decayed or damaged to be repaired with a filling or crown.
- Pulling teeth in radiation or chemotherapy patients: If radiation or chemotherapy to the head and neck causes teeth to become infected, pulling teeth may be necessary.
When you undergo a tooth extraction procedure, your dentist will numb the area with a local anesthetic. You may also receive an anti-anxiety medication or an intravenous sedative. If the dental extraction involves an impacted tooth, the tooth may be broken into pieces before it is removed.
Pulling teeth falls into two basic categories: simple and surgical. Here’s what to expect from each:
- Simple: A simple tooth extraction involves the removal of a tooth that is visible in the mouth. This could mean removing a badly damaged or decayed tooth, or removing teeth prior to getting braces. General dentists can do simple tooth extractions. When you undergo simple tooth extraction, you will receive local anesthesia. In addition, some dental professionals administer anti-anxiety medication or use conscious sedation for simple cases of pulling teeth. In most cases, over-the-counter pain medication is sufficient for pain management after these procedures.
- Surgical: Surgical tooth extraction is an operation by an oral surgeon involving removal of teeth that are not visible in the mouth, because they have not come in or because the tooth has broken off. Individuals with special medical conditions may receive general anesthesia when pulling teeth involving surgery. You may also receive prescription pain medication for use immediately after surgical teeth-pulling procedures.
After any type of tooth extraction, be sure to follow your dental professional’s instructions for oral care, including the following tips:
- Eat Soft Foods: Stick primarily to liquids until any anesthesia wears off, and then limit your diet to soft foods for the first few days after a tooth extraction.
- Take care of your teeth: Don’t brush the teeth immediately next to the area of tooth extraction on the first day after the procedure, but do brush the rest of your teeth. Two days after a tooth extraction, get back to a good oral care routine.
“Dry socket” occurs in approximately 3-4% of teeth pulling cases. If a blood clot fails to form in the hole after pulling teeth, or if the blood clot breaks off too soon, the underlying bone is exposed, creating a dry socket. This condition can be painful and should be treated as soon as possible with a medicated bandage to promote healing.
Other potential problems associated with pulling teeth include:
- Sore Jaw: Your jaw may be sore due to anesthesia or to the strain of keeping your mouth open during the procedure.
- Numb Lips and Chin: If the reason for pulling teeth was removal of lower wisdom teeth, your lower lip or chin may be numb for several months if a nerve in that area (the inferior alveolar nerve) was traumatized.
- Infection: Infection is always a possibility after pulling teeth, but it is unlikely in individuals who have healthy immune systems.