When we are children, we all go through that exciting if slightly terrifying experience of losing our teeth. They will fall out naturally one by one and we will watch with anticipation waiting for our adult teeth to cut through the gums and grow in. But sometimes those loose teeth need a little help coming out, and that’s where the old wife’s tale of a piece of string tied to a doorknob comes in. I personally suffered that as a child, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience for me or my exasperated mother. But once you’re an adult all of that should be over – your adult teeth should last you a lifetime with proper care. Sadly, thousands of adults across the country need one or more of their permanent teeth removed. Since this can be a scary process, we wanted to give you the lowdown on what is really involved in extracting adult teeth and why it would be necessary.
Why Would You Need To Have A Tooth Removed?
Over 50% of adults will have had to have some dental work done in their lives. Usually this is simply filling in cavities or placing crowns, but this can be more extreme. If you have not noticed that you need work done quickly enough, this may result in your tooth being too damaged (from trauma or decay) to be repaired. A dentist might also recommend a tooth extraction if your mouth is too crowded, causing misalignment of the teeth or pain where a tooth cannot break through the gum. Excessive tooth decay and infection is another common cause for tooth extraction, though this would usually be remedied by a root canal unless antibiotics cannot cure the infection. In extreme cases if your immune system is compromised (say from chemotherapy or having an organ transplant), even the risk of an infection in the tooth may be enough reason to pull it and protect your health. You may find your dentist recommends a tooth pulled if you are suffering from periodontal disease (gum disease) so severe that the pockets holding your teeth have been damaged and can no longer hold the tooth. The final cause for tooth extraction is unrelated to infection or damage, but is instead caused by the growth of wisdom teeth, which can cause severe pain and even cause the rest of the teeth in the jaw to move to accommodate them.
So How Do Dentists Pull Teeth?
Before any tooth extraction a dentist will X-Ray your jaw to get a clear idea of where the roots of your tooth are. This is so that they can remove the tooth without causing damage to your nerves or any other teeth. If they notice problem areas, like curved or fractured roots, they may refer you to a hospital at this stage to have the tooth taken out there under a general aesthetic to prevent pain and movement during the extraction. You may be advised to take a course of antibiotics in order kill any infection in your mouth and to prevent infection setting in after the procedure.
At the beginning of a normal tooth extraction procedure you will be given a local anaesthetic to numb the area around the tooth. If your tooth is impacted, then the dentist will first cut away the gum over the tooth before securing it with a device called an elevator. They will then gently rock the tooth back and forth in order to loosen it from the ligaments and jaw bone that hold it in place. This can take some time as the tooth can sometimes be firmly lodged in the socket. Once the tooth is loose enough the dentist will use forceps to grasp the tooth and remove it from its socket. If the tooth proves problematic they may opt to remove it in pieces but cutting the tooth off at regular intervals. Once the tooth has been removed a blood clot will usually form in the socket. The dentist will pack the socket with gauze and ask you to bite down for a few minutes to stop the bleeding and encourage clotting. If the socket is particularly large then they may place a few self-dissolving stitches over the gum edges to promote correct healing.
Once the tooth has been pulled you will be allowed home to rest and recover. This will usually take a few days, and there are some steps you can take to help minimise discomfort and promote clean and healthy healing:
- Take painkillers as prescribed to you.
- Bite firmly on the gauze pad at regular intervals to reduce bleeding and allow a clot to form. Keep the pad in place for at least 3-4 hours after the tooth has been pulled, but if it starts to become soaked with blood make sure you change it.
- Apply ice to the area immediately after the extraction to minimize swelling. Apply every 10 minutes, remove for 10 and then reapply.
- Relax and try to limit activity for 3 days after the procedure.
- Avoid rinsing or spitting for the first 24 hours. Also avoid drinking through a straw or smoking as these can reopen the wound and inhibit healing.
- After 24 hours rinse your mouth with a salt water solution.
- Eat soft foods until the extraction site has healed.
- Avoid lying flat as this prolongs bleeding. Instead prop your head up with pillows when lying down.
- Continue to brush your teeth and tongue and floss (but avoid the extraction site) as this will help prevent infection.
If you have any questions about tooth removal or would like to make your initial appointment to see if you need one, please get in touch with us today for your check up and consultation.