Indianapolis dentist explains tooth extraction, a common oral surgery procedure
Learning you need to have a tooth extracted can be an uncomfortable moment. However, many adults will face this common oral surgery procedure, particularly when it comes to wisdom teeth. Dr. Matthew Church of Washington Street Dentistry in Indianapolis has helped many patients understand common reasons a tooth may need to be removed, the tooth extraction procedure, and how to care for the mouth post-treatment.
Common reasons for extraction
There are several reasons a tooth may need to be removed, including to allow space and prevent crowding – as is often the case for wisdom teeth – and decay or damage to the tooth.
- Wisdom teeth: There is no real need for the extra set of molars that develop when individuals are in their teens or early 20s. Often, the teeth cause problems for the patient. The patient may not have enough room in their mouth and the wisdom teeth cause crowding of the remaining teeth or begin to grow in sideways. In other cases, the teeth do not fully erupt, which can lead to pain and oral health concerns. To prevent these issues, many dentists recommend having wisdom teeth extracted, even before a problem develops.
- Decayed or damaged teeth: When a tooth is decayed or damaged, a dentist will try to fix it and save the tooth. This can be done with fillings, cosmetic bonding, or even dental crowns. However, if a tooth is badly decayed or damaged it may be better to extract the tooth and replace it with an implant, bridge and crown appliance, or denture.
How is a tooth extracted?
A tooth that has fully erupted is extracted by simply pulling it. The patient will be given local anesthesia and the dentist will gently shift the tooth back and forth with professional instruments to loosen it from the socket and then pull it. A tooth that is not fully erupted will need to be extracted using a surgical procedure in which the dentist cuts through the gums and lifts the tooth out of place.
Because extraction can make some people anxious, many patients will opt for dental sedation during the procedure. This allows the patient to feel calm and relaxed during the appointment, but alert enough to answer questions or respond to direction. Patients with greater levels of anxiety may opt for deeper levels of sedation.
Following the procedure
While oral surgery is common, there are certain protocols after the procedure that patients should be sure to follow to minimize discomfort and speed healing. It’s important to ask your dentist for specific instructions following your appointment, but these actions are typically recommended:
- Keep the gauze in place. The dentist will likely pack the extraction site with gauze to reduce bleeding and promote the development of a blood clot. Keep biting on the gauze for several hours after the appointment. If you notice that it’s becoming soaked with blood, you can change it for a fresh pad.
- Take pain medication as prescribed. Often patients feel just fine when they leave the dentist’s office because the anesthesia hasn’t worn off yet. They overestimate how good they feel and when the medication wears off, the patient experiences pain. Managing your pain often includes taking medication before you feel uncomfortable, so be sure to follow the doctor’s orders in the first several days.
- Use ice to reduce swelling. Ice should typically be used for 10 minutes at a time.
- Take it easy. You may want to get back to your daily activities, but it’s important to rest to allow your body time to heal. In the coming days, you’ll be able to gradually increase your activity level.
- Avoid certain activities. Drinking from a straw, forceful rinsing, spitting, and soaking can all dislodge the blood clot that is preventing bleeding of the gums. Avoid these activities.
- Eat soft foods. Items such as yogurt, mashed potatoes, applesauce, and pudding are favorites for those who recently had a tooth extracted. Solid foods can be added as your mouth begins to heal.
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