“Tooth extraction” is a phrase many people have been taught to fear. However, sometimes a tooth extraction is a vital operation for the sake of dental health. Because people often don’t know much of the facts on this procedure, they may not realize when it’s time to schedule one. Learn more here about tooth extractions, when they’re necessary and how to prepare for them.
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Why a Tooth Needs Extraction
From fillings and bonding to crowns and root canals, there are a number of ways to save an ailing tooth, alleviate dental pain and restore confidence in your self-image. Sometimes, though, a tooth is so far gone that not even something as dramatic as a root canal can save it. These situations can include:
- Severe decay that causes debilitating pain or jeopardizes other teeth;
- Infection that antibiotics or root canals fail to treat;
- Gum and bone structure damaged by disease;
- Trauma-induced damage that cannot be safely repaired;
- Rarely, a situation where a less drastic operation is not financially feasible for the patient.
Teeth may also need extraction for orthodontic reasons—crowding of teeth causes misalignment that interferes with proper dental development and your ability to eat.
Simple Versus Surgical Extraction
Extraction procedures vary depending on the circumstances, and your dentist or surgeon will explain what you need. A simple extraction can be performed if the tooth is clearly visible and accessible above the gum line. Under local anesthesia, an elevator and forceps are used to loosen the tooth in its socket until it can be pulled out. Surgical extraction, conversely, is necessary if the tooth hasn’t erupted, has broken under the gum or has long, curved roots. This requires an incision and, frequently, splitting the tooth into multiple segments to be removed separately.
Before and After Extraction
The dentist, when prescribing an extraction, will need to know about your medical history, including medications and supplements taken, current or past conditions and upcoming treatments that could conflict with the extraction process. They may give you antibiotics to take before the operation. Additionally, refrain from smoking beforehand and plan for a ride home if you need general anesthesia.
Recovery post-extraction takes a few days, with the most rest necessary in the first 24 hours. Eat only soft foods and avoid using a straw at first, don’t smoke or rinse, and use caution when brushing and flossing around the affected area. As you heal, you can begin to return to a normal diet, and you should also start rinsing again to clean your mouth. Use ice packs and prescribed painkillers to manage inflammation, and notify your dentist if the pain doesn’t recede or if you find pus or drainage from the incision.
Knowing when to schedule for a tooth extraction, and what to do in preparation for it, can be critical knowledge when a serious dental emergency happens.