While it may cause you some fear and anxiety, having a tooth extracted is a common dental procedure. In fact, the CDC estimates that the average American has had approximately twelve teeth extracted by the age of 50. There are multiple reasons a dentist may suggest a tooth extraction, such as overcrowding, severe tooth decay, or a broken or chipped tooth that breaks off near the gumline. If you must have a tooth pulled by the dentist, here are the things you can expect.
In preparation for the tooth extraction, your dentist will first want to take panoramic X-rays of your mouth. This is a 2-D X-ray that captures the teeth and upper and lower jaws in one picture and will help your dentist determine the best method of extraction. For extremely complicated extractions, your dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon. Before the procedure your dentist will also ensure that there is no infection present. If there does appear to be an infection, your dentist will prescribe antibiotics before the procedure.
On the day of the extraction, the first thing your dentist will do is apply a local anesthesia by injecting it in the area around the tooth that will be removed. This will cause the entire area to go numb so that you will not feel any pain during the procedure. Keep in mind that with only a local anesthesia, you will be awake throughout the entire procedure. If being fully awake during the extraction makes you uncomfortable, you can ask your dentist to give you nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is a mild sedative that helps with pain and anxiety.
After the local anesthesia has taken effect and your mouth is completely numb, your dentist will use forceps and a special tool called a dental elevator to loosen the tooth from the ligaments and jawbone. You should not feel any pain during this process, just a little bit of pressure. If the tooth has to be surgically removed, your dentist will make a small incision in the gumline, extract the tooth, and then carefully clean around the gumline. Then she will stitch up the wound.
Once the tooth is removed, there will be some bleeding and your dentist will have you bite down on some gauze. It is recommended that you change out the gauze every 30 minutes until the bleeding stops, which should happen within 3-4 hours. To ensure a blood clot naturally forms and to avoid a very painful condition called dry socket, for the first 24 hours you should avoid smoking, using a straw, rinsing your mouth with mouthwash, and even brushing your teeth. If your dentist had to use stitches, the stitches should dissolve on their own within 2-7 days. You may experience soreness around the area for a couple of weeks, so it’s best to stick with soft, cold/cool, and bland foods, and to get plenty of rest.
While it can seem scary to have a tooth removed by the dentist, it is really an easy and painless procedure. At Cornerstone Family Dentistry, we go out of our way to make sure all of our patients, both young and old, feel comfortable and at-ease during any dental treatment. Schedule an appointment with us today!