The Ins and Outs of Tooth Extraction

Among dental procedures, tooth extractions are often the most traumatic for patients. Patients often believe that the tooth extraction process will be painful, and this can lead to severe anxiety among many patients – especially children. In reality, dental professionals have many tools and techniques at their disposal, ensuring that patients receive this critical treatment with a minimum of discomfort. In this guide, we’ll talk about tooth extractions, what to expect, and the reasons behind this complex dental procedure.

What is a Tooth Extraction?

A tooth extraction is a procedure where a tooth is removed by a dentist. There are several reasons why a tooth needs to be removed. Teeth may be too damaged or decayed to save via a root canal or another procedure, necessitating that tooth’s removal. In some cases, overcrowding in the mouth leads to the need for extracting one or more teeth, allowing the remaining teeth to grow in correctly. This is often done prior to a patient getting orthodontics like braces. Finally, wisdom teeth may need to be extracted, especially when those teeth are impacted or will cause crowding once they have grown in.

Two Types of Tooth Extractions

Dentists perform two different types of tooth extraction, depending on the patient’s specific needs and the issues surrounding the tooth itself. The first is referred to as a simple extraction, which is a tooth removal that doesn’t require surgery or bone removal. These extractions are typically completed in just a few minutes and with a minimum of discomfort.

The second type is called a surgical extraction. This procedure is done when the tooth to be removed has long curved roots or teeth that might break during the extraction process. The dentist or oral surgeon makes a small incision in the tissue surrounding the tooth to facilitate its removal.

What to Expect During a Tooth Extraction

Patients often fear tooth extractions, expecting severe pain and bleeding during or after the procedure is completed. Dentists are specially trained to avoid patient discomfort; before pulling the tooth or teeth, the dentist will use a local anesthetic to numb the tissues around the tooth to be extracted. In some cases, general anesthesia may be used, particularly if the patient has high anxiety levels or if multiple teeth are to be extracted at the same time. In a simple extraction, the dentist grasps the tooth with special tools, then gently rocks the tooth back and forth to loosen it from the surrounding tissues. In a surgical extraction, a small incision is made in the gum and/or bone supporting the tooth’s roots. Then the tooth is loosened and removed using pliers or forceps. Stitches may be used to close the incision.

Tooth Extraction Aftercare

After the procedure is over, patients may experience tenderness or light bleeding from the tooth socket. This discomfort can be generally be controlled by over the counter medications. A blood clot will form in the tooth socket, and this clot protects the underlying tissues. If that clot were to become dislodged, a condition called “dry socket” can lead to excessive pain and the potential for infection. The dentist will apply a special dressing to the socket to promote the formation of a new clot. The dentist may also prescribe antibiotics to ward off infection. In just a few days, the patient will be back to normal.

Patients should avoid hard or crunchy foods after the procedure and until the area is healed. To keep the tooth socket clean, dentists recommend gently swishing saltwater in the mouth and to lightly brush food particles away with a soft toothbrush.

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