In simplest terms, dental extraction means removing a tooth from the mouth. The phrase “pulling a tooth” is a misnomer because we don’t actually “pull” teeth, but rather we remove them by loosening and working them out through gentle motion. Tooth extraction is typically performed in the office using a local anesthetic, and recovery usually takes about a week.
Why we do extractions?
As a general benchmark, dental extractions are a “last resort” when other treatments aren’t effective. If possible, it is always best to keep your natural teeth in your mouth. However, if keeping the tooth will cause more pain and complications than it is worth, extraction becomes a more healthy option. We generally recommend dental extraction under the following circumstances:
- When the tooth is abscessed to the point that a root canal cannot save the tooth or stop the ensuing infection.
- When the tooth is loosened or damaged due to gum disease.
- When the tooth is interfering, or is likely to interfere, with the positioning of other teeth (example: wisdom teeth).
- In any other case when extraction is the best line of defense against current or future infection.
How we extract a tooth
In the majority of cases, tooth extraction is a fairly simple process. We administer a local anesthetic to minimize pain, and work the tooth out of the mouth through a rocking motion. In some cases, the position or condition of the tooth means we have to remove the tooth in segments (called “sectioning”), and in more complicated situations, we may have to remove a part of the bone. In more severe cases like these, we may administer a sedative or even a general anesthetic to make things easier for you.
After the extraction
You will probably experience some pain and swelling for the first few days after a dental extraction. This can be managed with pain medication and cold compresses outside the mouth, along with a lukewarm salt water rinse in the mouth. If infection occurs, the dentist may prescribe an antibiotic. Most people are fully recovered in about a week.
Once the tooth is removed, if nothing fills the vacant spot, your other teeth may begin shifting. To prevent this, as well as to restore your normal bite, the dentist will usually recommend a bridge or dental implant to fill the vacancy.