In a perfect world, the only time people who lose their teeth would be during the transition from baby teeth to permanent. However, tooth extractions in adulthood are occasionally required. While the baby teeth fall out on their own when it’s the right time, extracting a permanent, adult tooth requires oral surgery. If you might need to have a tooth pulled at some point in the near future, knowing what is involved and what to expect can help you prepare for before and after surgery.
Why Tooth Extractions Are Performed
A dentist might need to remove a permanent tooth from a person’s mouth for a number of reasons. In some cases, a tooth might be so badly damaged or tooth decay might be so severe that the tooth can’t be preserved and the best option is to remove it and replace it with an implant.
Another common reason for tooth extractions is if the wisdom teeth, or third molars, are impacted. The wisdom teeth are the last teeth to come in in a person’s life, usually in the late teens or early 20s. While the teeth might have been important to early humans, today’s humans have evolved to have smaller mouths and different dietary habits, meaning that there is often not enough room for the wisdom teeth and that they aren’t really needed, anyway. Some people have no problem with their wisdom teeth, but many others find that the teeth are pushing against others in the mouth or likely to get stuck in the gum line, meaning that surgical extraction is the safest option for dealing with them.
Wisdom teeth aren’t the only teeth that can become impacted or that might need to be removed to make space in the mouth. There are also cases when an oral surgeon will remove other types of teeth to prepare the mouth for braces or other orthodontia or reduce crowding in the mouth and help the teeth come in straighter.
Finally, a tooth might need to be pulled if it is severely infected. While pulling an infected tooth is often a last resort, it is occasionally the only option to keep the infection from spreading to other areas.
What Happens During an Extraction
Generally, there are two ways an oral surgeon might perform a tooth extraction, depending on the location and positioning of the tooth. If the problematic tooth is already in position and fully erupted, often a simple extraction is all that is needed. The dentist will gently loosen the tooth, then use forceps to pull it out of the mouth.
Impacted teeth or teeth that aren’t fully erupted usually need to be removed surgically. Depending on your preferences and how complicated the surgery will need to be, the surgeon might give you a local anesthetic or a local anesthetic and sedation during the procedure. In the most complicated cases, general anesthesia might be required during the tooth extraction.
What Happens Afterwards
Once the tooth is removed, the surgeon will usually pack the area with gauze to control any bleeding. A clot should form in the now empty socket. The blood clot is an important part of the healing process as it keeps the nerves around the empty socket from being irritated. When the clot is knocked loose or otherwise disturbed, a condition called dry socket develops. To reduce the chance of developing dry socket, your surgeon will likely tell you not to smoke, use a straw or do anything that creates pressure in the mouth for several days after surgery.
Some discomfort is to be expected after a tooth is pulled out. You can ease any discomfort you feel by taking pain relievers. Eating soft foods and avoiding foods that are very cold, very hot, spicy or otherwise irritating for several days can also improve the comfort in your mouth after a tooth extraction.
When cleaning your teeth after a tooth is removed, you’ll want to be particularly gentle around the extraction site. Your surgeon might recommend waiting several hours or a day before you brush, just to reduce the chance of irritating the extraction site or knocking the clot loose.
What About the Missing Tooth?
What happens in the area where the tooth was pulled depends on what the reason for the extraction and the type of teeth that were removed. Since the wisdom teeth aren’t needed, once they are removed from the mouth, that’s usually the end of the story. You won’t need to worry about replacing them. The same can be true if a tooth was removed to make more room in a crowded mouth.
In cases where a severely damaged or infected tooth was removed, it’s likely that you will want to replace it, to keep the remaining teeth from shifting and to prevent further problems in the mouth. Often, a dental implant is the ideal replacement option, as an implant is a permanent replacement that looks and feels like a natural tooth.
At Gallardo & Lamas Periodontics and Implant Dentistry in Miami, Florida, oral surgeon Dr. Juan C. Arroyo regularly performs tooth extractions and wisdom teeth removal, as well as a variety of other oral surgeries. If you are concerned about a tooth or if your general dentist has recommended having your wisdom teeth taken out, call 305-447-1447 to schedule a free consultation with Dr. Arroyo today.