What is a tooth extraction?
An extraction is the removal of a tooth from its socket in the bone. Extractions will be the final measure your dentist will take to fix broken, decayed or damaged teeth. The first steps your dentist can take is to amend the tooth, such as with a filling, crown or other treatment. However, sometimes there is too much damage to the teeth or gums to repair leaving the only option so the tooth or teeth will need to be extracted.
In situations where there is damage beyond repair to the teeth and gums, extraction may be the only option.
Why would I need a tooth extraction?
- A tooth is damaged beyond repair – usually caused by decay or trauma.
- A crowded mouth – dentists may pull teeth, especially if there is no room for wisdom teeth or in preparation for orthodontic treatment. Also, if a tooth cannot break through the gum because there is not enough room in the mouth it may be removed.
- Infection - if tooth decay or damage extends to the pulp (the centre of the tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels) bacteria can enter the pulp which can lead to infection. In some cases, this can be corrected by root canal therapy.
- Risk of infection – if your immune system is compromised (for example if you have received chemotherapy or an organ transplant) the slight risk of infection in a particular tooth may be a big enough reason to pull the tooth.
What to expect from a tooth extraction
Dentists and oral surgeons will perform tooth extractions, and will explain what you should expect and the risks involved. Before pulling the tooth, your dentist will give you an injection of local anaesthetic to numb the tooth and surrounding areas. If you are a nervous patient or are having more than one tooth removed, you may be placed under general anaesthetic, which may require an anaesthetist at an extra cost. During the extraction, a dentist may cut away gum and bone tissue, and then use forceps to grasp the tooth and gently rock it back and forth, loosening it from the jaw bone and ligaments that hold it in place. If a tooth is too hard to pull out, it may need to be removed in pieces.
Once the tooth has been extracted, a blood clot will usually form in the tooth socket. The dentist will pack a sterile gauze pad into the tooth pocket and have you bite down on it to prevent it from bleeding. It may be necessary for the dentist to place a few stitches to close the gum edges over the extraction site. Sometimes the blood clot in the tooth socket will break loose and expose the bone. This can be a painful experience, called dry socket. If this results, your dentist will most likely place a sedative dressing over the socket for a few days which will protect it as the new blood clot forms.