Having a tooth extracted is not as scary as it sounds. Essentially it involves removing a tooth from your mouth to help improve your oral health. Since a missing tooth does have an effect on how your smile looks, feels and works, we do everything we can to support your efforts to keep tooth decay and cavities away, including performing a root canal to save a tooth. Still, there are times when a tooth may need to be extracted, so today we’re going to answer some commonly asked questions we get about tooth extractions.
Q: Why would Dr. Larsen recommend removing my tooth?
A: If you are getting orthodontic work done, one or more teeth may need to be removed to make room for the teeth to be shifted into an aligned position. If the teeth are too crowded because you have too many to fit optimally in your mouth or jaw, removal can help them spread out properly along the gum line. Crowded teeth also allow food to easily get lodged in them, which can cause problems with oral hygiene. If you still have your wisdom teeth, they may need to be taken out if they are impacted, as impaction can harm the health of the nearby teeth.
Another common reason for extraction is when a tooth is so damaged from decay that even a root canal can’t save it. A root canal allows Dr. Larsen to go in and remove the infected material unless the decay is so extensive that it can’t be fixed with a dental filling or crown. This is the problem with teeth that aren’t regularly inspected by our dentist, you could have a cavity in a tooth’s enamel and not know it. That’s because there’s no pain felt inside the enamel since it doesn’t have nerves like the pulp of a tooth. By the time you have a toothache, the damage has made its way to the pulp with all of its blood vessels and nerves. At this point, the tooth is being destroyed from within and there’s likely not enough tooth enamel left to repair it with a crown.
If you have severe gum disease where you have bone loss in the jaw, a tooth may also require extraction. Also, when your gums recede, the tooth can become loose and the only thing keeping it in place might be the teeth next to it. In this case, the tooth will fall out eventually, so it’s best to have it removed.
Q: What does extracting my tooth involve?
A. It depends on which kind of extraction Dr. Larsen recommends, a simple extraction or a surgical extraction. To assess which type you need we will take X-rays. For a simple extraction, Dr. Larsen will be able to see the tooth as it has fully emerged from the gum line. In this instance, he will use forceps to gradually loosen the tooth so it can be pulled out, and you will receive a local anesthesia so you won’t feel a thing. With this type of extraction, you won’t have stitches so the recovery process is a cinch.
If Dr. Larsen needs to take out gum tissue or bone to get the tooth out, he will need to perform a surgical extraction. For example, wisdom teeth are often impacted, which requires cutting into gum tissue and bone, requiring them to be removed surgically. If you have a tooth which is broken down or has long root tips that are curved, they will need to be taken out surgically. With a surgical extraction, there will be stitches so the recovery will take a little longer.
Q: What do I need to know before I have a tooth extracted?
A: Dr. Larsen needs to know some things about your overall health before proceeding with an extraction because there is always the possibility that unhealthy bacteria can pass into the bloodstream and infect your gum tissue. If you are prone to infection, Dr. Larsen will likely prescribe antibiotics for you to take before and after the extraction. To assess your risk of infection, we will want to know your medical history along with any medications (including vitamins or herbal products) you are currently taking.
For example, we will need to know if you have a compromised immune system, a congenital heart defect, or have had problems with your heart valves, if you have liver disease, have had bacterial endocarditis, or if you’ve ever had an artificial joint replacement with man-made parts (like a hip replacement).
Q: What do I need to know about the recovery period?
A: We will give you after-care instructions to help you heal quickly and without complications. But to give you an idea of what you can expect, here are some details:
- You’ll be prescribed painkillers if needed.
- You’ll be given gauze to bite down on as the blood clots in the socket. Once it clots, you’ll leave the gauze in for three to four hours after the tooth was removed.
- To help you with swelling, you can put an ice compress on the outside of the tooth extraction site, for ten-minute intervals.
You’ll want to rest for the first 24 hours and avoid exertion for a couple of days after.
- During those first 24 hours, you don’t want to rinse or spit with any kind of exertion or drink from a straw to ensure that the clot settles into the socket. After the 24 hours, you can gently rinse with warm salt water.
- You’ll need to stick to soft foods the day after the extraction. You can enjoy soup, yogurt, pudding, smoothies, and as the surgical site heals you can add increasingly solid foods, such as mashed potatoes, macaroni, pasta, etc.
- If you are a habitual tobacco user, you will want to hold off as it can interfere with healing.
- You’ll still be cleaning your teeth, gums and tongue, just be careful to steer clear of the surgical site.
- Once the extraction site has healed, we can fill in the gap left behind to restore your smile’s appearance and function.
We hope this overview gives you a better idea of what to expect if you need to have a tooth extracted. At Gentle Dental Arts in Orem, Utah, we offer dental implants, bridges, dentures and more to help you restore your smile’s function. If you have questions or want to schedule a visit with Dr. Larsen, please call 801-788-4922 today!