The prospect of having a tooth pulled or extracted is one of the primary concerns that keep patients away from their dentist’s office. While the idea of having a tooth removed from its socket by your dentist may be frightening, it’s important to remember that your dentist will make every effort to repair and restore the tooth before considering an extraction.
Reasons for a Dental Extraction
There may be many reasons your dentist will need to perform an extraction. A few of these include:
- Severe tooth decay or damage – Sometimes a tooth can become so broken, cracked, or decayed that there is no other option but to pull it. Teeth that are affected by severe gum disease may also need to be extracted in order to prevent further damage to the surrounding teeth.
- Extra teeth – In some cases a patient may have supernumerary teeth that block other teeth from coming in correctly.
- Misaligned teeth – In order to ensure your best possible oral and dental health, your dentist may need to remove teeth that are incorrectly placed or not functioning well.
- Chemotherapy – Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy can weaken your immune system, leaving you more prone to tooth infections.
- Radiation – If you are scheduled to undergo head or neck radiation, you may need to have some teeth extracted to reduce the risk of possible complications and infection.
- Transplant – If you are receiving an organ transplant, the medications you will receive to suppress your immune response can increase the risk of infection. Teeth that are at a higher risk for infection may need to be extracted prior to your transplant.
Commonly Extracted Teeth
Dental extractions are most commonly performed on the wisdom teeth (or the third molars). Many dentists feel these teeth should be removed in adolescence in order to eliminate potential dental problems before they occur. Wisdom teeth are a common cause of tooth impaction, which can lead to dental problems such as tooth decay, a poor bite, gum disease and infection. Other permanent teeth may need to be extracted in order to make way for dental treatments such as crowns, bridges, or orthodontics.
Dental Extraction Types
There are two types of dental extraction performed today:
- Simple extractions – This type of extraction can be performed by general dental practitioners. It is performed only on teeth that are visible in the mouth and is usually performed under a local anesthetic.
- Surgical extractions – This type of extraction is performed on teeth further back in the mouth, or teeth that are not easily seen. They may have broken off at the gum line, or could still be beneath the surface. This must be performed by a dentist or oral surgeon, and usually requires local anesthesia or conscious sedation. In some cases, general anesthesia will be used.
How to Prepare for a Dental Extraction
Before an extraction, you will likely need to discuss your dental and medical history with your doctor, and have some X-rays taken. You will need to make sure you discuss any prescription and over-the-counter medications you are currently taking, including herbal medications. In some cases, you may be asked to take an antibiotic for a few days before your extraction in order to prevent infection.
If you will be undergoing sedation dentistry for your dental extraction, you may need to have someone drive you home. This won’t be necessary in every case. Discuss this matter with your doctor before the procedure to ensure you are properly prepared.
What to Expect During a Dental Extraction
During the extraction appointment, your dentist will first anesthetize the tooth, jawbone, and surrounding gums with a local anesthetic. During a simple extraction, the dentist will then grip a tooth with a specialized dental tool and wiggle the tooth gently, back and forth, in order to loosen it prior to the extraction. Sometimes a second tool will be placed between the tooth and the gum to help loosen it further. An elevator wedge will then be used to place pressure on the tooth and expand the socket.
A surgical extraction is much more complex. After sedating you, your dentist will also loosen the tooth with an elevator wedge. It may also be necessary to use extraction forceps or a dental drill. In some cases, your dentist may be required to cut or remove gum tissue in order to get to the tooth. Many modern dental offices can use a dental laser or an electrosurgery tool in such cases. These two options are superior to older methods, in that they offer greater precision and cause less bleeding and discomfort for the patient.
Bleeding is quite common after a dental extraction, and you will be asked to keep gauze in your mouth for about 45 minutes to allow enough time for the blood to clot properly. You may also experience some discomfort and swelling. You can use cold compresses or ice packs. In some cases, you may also be given an over-the-counter or prescription pain reliever.
- Stick to a diet of soft foods or liquids for the first 24-48 hours, and gradually progress to harder foods.
- Brush and floss as usual, but avoid the extraction site.
- After 24 hours, gently rinse the empty socket with warm salt water after meals and before bed. Follow these instructions for at least five days.
- Avoid smoking, hot liquids, alcohol, and carbonated drinks for at least two to three days.
Remembering these aftercare procedures can help you avoid complications such as infection.
Dental Extraction Complications
There are a number of possible complications that can occur when you undergo a dental extraction. The complications include:
- Damage to nearby teeth.
- Dry socket, which is a common complication when a dental extraction is performed. This usually occurs when the blood did not clot in the socket, or if the blood clot is dislodged. This is why it is very important that you follow the proper aftercare procedures, and avoid things such as smoking after your extraction.
- Incomplete extraction, where part of the tooth remains. This is usually limited to the tooth root or root tip.
- Misaligned teeth, which can also interfere with bite and chewing, and lead to tooth-grinding.
- Nerve injury, which usually occurs when the lower wisdom teeth are removed. This issue is rare and heals quickly.
In many cases, your doctor will recommend a dental implant to replace teeth that have been extracted in order to avoid complications such as jawbone thinning, the loosening of other teeth, bone loss, and gum recession.
Dental Extraction Cost
The cost of a dental extraction varies widely based on a number of different factors. First, if you have dental insurance, this will greatly reduce your costs. You will need to contact your provider to see how much you may expect to pay. In general, a simple tooth extraction can range anywhere from $100-$300. Surgical extractions can be more expensive, costing up to $400 for a permanent tooth. Baby teeth are generally less expensive, costing anywhere from $90-$150.
For more information about dental extractions in Redondo Beach, California, and to schedule your appointment with Dr. Trent Westernoff or Dr. Martin Mardirosian, please call Oral Surgery Partners at 310-375-0514.