Coast Dental Blog
Why You May Need a Tooth Extraction

There are several reasons for pulling teeth. Your dentist may recommend a tooth extraction because of:

  • severe decay or trauma
  • to alleviate crowding
  • to remove a baby tooth so the permanent tooth can emerge
  • to remove problematic wisdom teeth
  • periodontal (gum) disease
  • to facilitate dentures

The most common reason for a tooth extraction is severe dental decay (cavities).

Tooth Extraction ImageEveryone has bacteria in his or her mouth. Some types of bacteria produce acids that dissolve tooth enamel. When these bacteria band together, they create a layer of plaque that attaches to the tooth.  If the plaque is not removed by brushing and flossing, the acids dissolve the mineral crystals that make up the tooth enamel, creating a hole. That hole is called a cavity.

If the dental decay continues, the bacteria will dissolve the enamel all the way down to the soft nerve center of the tooth. That’s when most patients report feeling a toothache, or an increased sensitivity to hot or cold food and beverages. The cavity also weakens the tooth, which can cause it to chip, crack, or break.

Often, a damaged tooth can be saved with a root canal and a crown. However, if the dental decay is too severe, then your dentist may recommend a tooth extraction.

What to Expect During Your Tooth Extraction

Tooth extractions are a very common procedure in dentistry. First, your dentist or the oral surgeon will talk to you about whether you need to take an antibiotic before or after the extraction. Then, the dentist will numb the area around the tooth and prevent you from feeling pain.

Then the dentist will remove the tooth. If the tooth is impacted, such as in the case of many wisdom teeth, then the dentist will remove any gum and bone tissue covering the tooth before removing the tooth from the jaw bone and ligaments. The dentist uses forceps to gently rock the tooth back and forth to loosen it and remove it.

The dentist may place a few self-dissolving stitches to close the gum over the extraction site. In some cases, your dentist may also do a bone graft to preserve the socket so you can maintain the bone. You will need that bone if you plan to replace the natural tooth with a dental implant or to support a denture or partial denture.

What to do after a tooth extraction

Your dentist will provide you with instructions on what to do after a tooth extraction. Typically, these instructions include:

  • Sit and keep your head elevated until the bleeding stops. If you lie down, prop your head up with pillows.
  • Apply pressure to the area where the tooth was pulled, typically by gently biting down on the gauze the dentist placed in the area until the bleeding lessens. Change the gauze as needed.
  • Use an ice pack to control swelling by placing it on the outside of the mouth near the extraction site.
  • Avoid sports until a scab has formed over the missing tooth socket.
  • Keep the mouth clean by brushing the areas around the tooth socket.
  • Don’t touch or pick at the extraction site.
  • Take any prescribed medication as directed. Call your dentist immediately if you have any type of a reaction, including unusual swelling or itching.
  • Eat softer foods until the area has healed.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Avoid smoking, sucking through a straw, or any other sucking motion for at least 24 hours to avoid dislodging the clot that has formed to stop the bleeding. If the blood clot breaks loose, it can expose the jawbone beneath, a condition called dry socket.  

If the dentist pulled a baby tooth, the recovery time is typically just a day or two. If you had a permanent tooth pulled, it may take a few days before the area does not feel tender.

No matter why you may need a dental extraction, we can help. Call us at 1-800-32-SMILE to find the office nearest to you.

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