When a tooth has been damaged due to trauma or decay, the preferred approach is to try to repair it using fillings or possibly a crown. In some cases the damage is too severe for this, in which case the tooth needs to be extracted. Tooth extractions may also be needed if decay has reached the pulp of the tooth, though that can often be fixed with root canal therapy, which spares the tooth. In severe cases it may be necessary to extract the tooth to prevent spread of infection. Extractions, also known as ‘pulling teeth’, are the removal of the entire tooth, including the root, from the socket in the supporting bone.
Many people who maintain perfect dental health may still need to have wisdom teeth extracted due to crowding. A single impacted wisdom tooth may have to be removed, or sometimes all of the wisdom teeth are removed at the same time to prevent future problems. If you are having a tooth extracted, an X-ray may first be taken to see how it can best be removed. This is especially important for impacted wisdom teeth, which may not even be visible if they are completely covered by gum tissue. Individual extractions of visible teeth can usually be accomplished using a local anesthetic to control pain, though mechanical manipulation and pressure will still be felt. In simple extractions of a visible tooth, the tooth is first loosened, and then removed using forceps.
After a tooth is removed, there is a risk of a complication called dry socket. This is not uncommon, especially in the case of impacted teeth, and results from a clot failing to form properly or breaking down too early. It is necessary for a clot to form to facilitate the healing process and dry socket occurs when this is disrupted and the underlying bone is exposed, leading to increased pain and a foul odor. If you suspect this is happening, you should call your dental provider for advice, as you may need additional pain medications. It is also very important never to use straws during the healing period after extractions, as the powerful suction forces created can dislodge the clot. The goal during the period immediately following extractions is to keep the area clean using warm saltwater rinses, and to control swelling and bleeding, which should subside after a few days.
If you are experiencing trouble with your teeth, Oakridge Dental Center can evaluate the problem and determine if extractions are needed to get you back on the road to good dental health.