An extraction is the process of removing a tooth from the mouth. It’s one of the most common oral procedures and only occurs when a dentist cannot save the tooth.
If you’re worried that you might need an extraction, it’s a good indication that you need to make an appointment to see your dentist. Before performing an extraction, a dentist will determine whether it’s possible to save the tooth and can identify any problems you might have with other teeth, thereby preventing future issues.
As to whether you, specifically, need an extraction or not, you likely won’t find out whether you do or don’t online. There are four reasons why a person might need an extraction. And only a dentist can determine whether an extraction is necessary.
Reasons Why Extractions are Necessary
Reason No. 1: Disease
Cavities, infections, and periodontal diseases can all affect the teeth negatively and, if untreated, may provide cause for an extraction.
If cavities are caught early enough, a dentist can repair the tooth and stop further damage with a filling. However, if the cavity is left untreated and it spreads, it can damage the tooth’s structure enough that a filling isn’t possible. At that point, a dentist might have to remove the tooth.
Infections (abscesses) are another common cause of extractions. When an infection occurs in a tooth’s pulp (the inner part of a tooth), a dentist will treat it with a root canal. But if a root canal is unsuccessful and the infection continues, the dentist will have to remove the tooth.
Periodontal diseases refer to problems with the tissues surrounding the teeth, such as the gums and bones. If gums recede too much or the bone structure holding teeth becomes compromised, it might become necessary to remove the teeth.
Reason No. 2: Trauma
Sometimes when teeth undergo trauma, they simply become too damaged to save. Splintered teeth and broken teeth, for example, may be beyond repair.
Even if a dentist can repair damage, it’s possible that the tooth itself might not recover from the trauma. In that case, the tooth will die, and the dentist will have to remove it.
Reason No. 3: Crowding
Crowding is a common problem and cause for extractions. Crowding occurs when the jaw does not provide enough room for the teeth that form in a person’s mouth. Sometimes crowding happens simply because a child’s adult teeth come in faster than their mouth grows. In that case, an orthodontist may be able to correct the spacing problem with braces as the child grows.
Other times, a person’s mouth can never accompany the teeth in it. Orthodontists will sometimes then recommend one or more teeth be removed in order to provide enough space in the mouth prior to orthodontic treatment.
Dentists commonly extract wisdom teeth because of this issue. Wisdom teeth also are problematic because they often grow in at odd angles or become impacted, never breaking through the gumline or only partially coming through it.
Reason No. 4: Natural Process
As children, our bodies form small, baby teeth, which accompany the size of our small jaws. As we get older, these teeth fall out, and larger, adult-sized teeth take their place. This is a natural process. There’s no cause for concern when a baby tooth becomes loose and falls out.
During a visit to your dentist, the dentist may decide to extract a loose baby tooth to help along this natural process and prevent ongoing pain as it loosens.
Types of Tooth Extractions
There are two types of extractions: simple extractions and surgical extractions. Simple extractions are when a dentist removes a tooth above the gumline. To begin this procedure, the dentist will first numb the area. Next, they will use a lever-like tool called an elevator to pull the tooth toward the surface of the gums. Last, they will remove it with the forceps.
Surgical extractions are when a dentist has to remove gum tissue or bone as part of the extraction. An example of a surgical extraction is when a dentist removes an impacted wisdom tooth. A simple extraction may turn into a surgical one if tooth breaks off during extraction and individual pieces of the tooth, rather than the tooth as a whole, need removed.
What to Do After an Extraction
The ADA suggests that after an extraction patients bite on gauze for 30-45 minutes to stop bleeding. During the next 24 hours, a clot will form in the tooth socket, and bleeding will stop. Always follow your dentist’s instructions after an extraction. In general, don’t smoke or rinse vigorously within 24 hours of your extraction. You do not want to do anything that will exacerbate the bleeding or disturb the clot from forming. Also avoid alcoholic beverages, alcoholic mouthwashes, and strenuous activity during this time. You will want to avoid brushing and flossing the teeth next to the extraction site on the day of the extraction, as well.
It’s common to experience some light bleeding and facial swelling after the procedure. If swelling occurs, use cold facial compress.
In the months and years following an extraction, you might notice your teeth shifting. This can become problematic when they begin to interfere with your bite or create other alignment issues. To avoid this issue, consider getting a partial bridge or an implant to replace the extracted tooth. If your teeth shift, orthodontic treatment may become necessary to avoid further damage to the mouth.