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What to Expect With a Tooth Extraction

If you delay needed trips to your dentist because you dread the entire process, you’re not alone. The medical term is odontophobia and it affects more than 75 percent of the adult population. After all, the dentist’s office is full of very sharp instruments and very noisy power tools, so what’s there to not be apprehensive about? Add to that your uncertainty about what’s involved and it can be a recipe for terror to the staunchest of individuals.

A tooth extraction is one of the most common and the most feared of all dental procedures, but an extraction can be vital to both your physical and your oral health. When you learn what’s involved in the tooth extraction procedure, why it’s needed, and how long the recovery will take, it can substantially alleviate your odontophobia.

When a tooth is damaged beyond repair, it will need to be removed, although dentists usually try to save a natural tooth. Reasons for extraction include a broken, cracked, loose, or severely damaged tooth, whether the damage is from trauma or disease. By definition, a tooth extraction is simply removing a tooth from its socket in the jawbone. When expressed objectively and succinctly, it sounds much less intimidating, doesn’t it?

The first step in your tooth extraction procedure is an x-ray. This shows the dentist the best method for removal and indicates any complications that can arise. Your dentist will discuss your medical history and will need to know any medications and supplements that you currently take. It’s important to be open about your medical history and medications so that your procedure has the best outcome possible.

Before Your Tooth Extraction Procedure

Some specific conditions that your dentist will ask about include:

  • Artificial or damaged heart valves
  • Bacterial endocarditis
  • Congenital heart defect
  • Impaired immunity
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Knee or hip replacements

Although these may seem irrelevant to a tooth extraction, they may require special precautions or alternative sedation methods.

Simple vs Surgical Tooth Extractions

A simple extraction involves removing a visible tooth from its socket in the jawbone. A surgical extraction involves removing an impacted tooth – or one that hasn’t fully erupted – from the socket. Both require a local anesthetic, but a surgical extraction may require an intravenous anesthetic as well.

Expectations for After Your Extraction Procedure

When your tooth extraction is complete, your dentist may make a few stitches using a self-dissolving suture, and then they’ll pack the site with gauze and ask you to bite down firmly. This will help stop the bleeding. When you get home, be sure to follow these aftercare guidelines:

  • Rest for 24 hours and avoid strenuous activity. Otherwise, you can loosen your clot.
  • Keep your head elevated for 24 hours, even while sleeping.
  • Continue biting down on the gauze until a clot forms, which may take as long as three hours. Change the gauze as needed.
  • Avoid drinking through a straw, smoking, spitting forcibly, or rinsing your mouth for 24 hours.
  • Apply an ice-pack to the outside of your jaw where you had the extraction. Don’t put ice directly on the site though.
  • After 24 hours, rinse your mouth with a solution of ½ teaspoon salt and eight ounces of warm water.
  • Eat soft foods until your site heals. This includes soup, applesauce, yogurt, and mashed potatoes.
  • Maintain good oral hygiene but avoid the extraction site.
  • Take pain medication as you need it and as directed by your dentist.

Some bleeding, swelling, pain, and discomfort are normal with any type of dental procedure, but shouldn’t persist for more than four hours. If yours does, contact your dentist’s office without delay.

If you experience any of the following after four hours subsequent to your procedure, then contact your dentist right away:

  • Bleeding, swelling, or severe pain
  • Chills, fever, signs of infection
  • Chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Redness, swelling, or excessive discharge from the site

Any of the above can indicate a serious complication so you should immediately contact your dentist if you experience them.

Consume only soft foods for several days until your site has healed because you don’t want food particles to get in the incision and cause an infection. Typically, a tooth extraction takes between one and two weeks to heal completely. After that time, you can resume your normal daily activities and diet and your daily oral hygiene regimen.

The Debate Around Wisdom Teeth Extractions

The wisdom teeth are the last set of three sets of molars to erupt and they typically begin to erupt between the ages of 17 and 25 years. For some, the wisdom teeth come in straight and have no impact on the surrounding teeth. For others, however, there’s not enough room in the jaw to accommodate another set of molars. The wisdom teeth erupt at an angle and cause misalignment of the other teeth. Other times, they may not erupt at all and will become impacted. When this happens, they’ll need to be surgically removed.

Dentists are divided on the subject of wisdom teeth removal. Some prefer to remove them preemptively before they can cause problems. Others prefer to leave them until a problem arises, which it may not. There are valid points to both sides of the equation. The American Dental Association recommends the removal of wisdom teeth for the following reasons:

  • Cyst or tumor development
  • Discomfort or pain
  • Damage to the surrounding teeth
  • Onset of gum disease
  • Infection
  • Tooth decay

Some dentists prefer to remove wisdom teeth before they become problematic due to the following reasons:

  • Wisdom teeth can be diseased without presenting any symptoms, which can cause severe health problems.
  • Since it’s nearly impossible to predict if or when wisdom teeth will cause a problem, removing them when they first appear eliminates the potential for problems.
  • Removing them at an early age eliminates the potential for health problems that can occur to older adults before, during, or after a tooth extraction.

No matter which side you agree with, you’re sure to find a reputable and compassionate Union dentist who can work with you and explain the pros and cons of preemptive wisdom teeth removal. If you disagree with the first opinion you get, then get a second opinion. Either way, it’s vital to get the information you need to make the best decision for your physical and oral health.

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(908) 279-0623

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