Tooth Extraction FAQ
Tooth extraction is something many dental patients go through at some point – usually with wisdom teeth or because of cavities or gum disease. Here are answers to some of the questions you might have about tooth removal.
Can I pull a tooth myself?
That’s not a good idea. The one exception is if you are helping your child gently remove a baby tooth that has come almost completely loose on its own. In that case, you should be able to grasp the tooth firmly with a piece of gauze and pull the tooth free. If there is any pain when the child wiggles the tooth, it is not ready to come out and should be left in place a while longer. Adult teeth that are severely diseased or damaged should be extracted by a dentist. This will help you avoid infection, destruction of the gum tissue, a broken jaw, a shattered tooth and other serious complications. These post-extraction issues can be more painful and much more expensive than the extraction itself. Keep in mind that in some cases a dentist may be able to save a loose or painful tooth rather than extracting it. You don’t want to lose a permanent tooth if you don’t have to.
Can a molar be pulled like other teeth?
Teeth near the front of the mouth can usually be pulled by rocking the tooth back and forth with forceps and then pulling straight out of the gums. That’s because front teeth generally have a single, tapered root that can slide easily out of the socket. Molars have two or more roots that angle out in different directions into the jaw. The surrounding jaw bone is dense and the tooth may be firmly anchored in place, making a simple extraction inadvisable. Instead, the dentist may section the molar (cut it into several pieces) and pull each piece separately. This approach helps minimized damage to the jaw bone during tooth removal.
Is tooth extraction painful?
This depends on whether the nerve in the tooth root is still alive. If the tooth is “dead,” you may have little or no feeling in it at all. However, a dentist will generally use a local anesthetic for any tooth removal just in case. Additional sedation may be recommended for the extraction of impacted wisdom teeth since gum surgery is involved. You should not feel any pain during the procedure – only pressure. During the healing period after a simple extraction, discomfort may be managed with over-the-counter medications. For a complex extraction, more powerful painkillers may be prescribed. The most effective way to avoid significant and ongoing pain after tooth extraction is following post-op instructions to prevent dry socket.
What is dry socket?
Dry socket is a potential complication of tooth extraction – especially with impacted wisdom teeth. The socket where the tooth was pulled should be covered by a blood clot during the healing process. When this doesn’t happen, or when the clot is dislodged, the jawbone is exposed along with nerve endings in the surrounding tissue. The area is very sensitive and painful. It may give off a foul odor. If dry socket develops, the gum and bone will often take substantially longer to heal. Your dentist may treat dry socket with medicated gauze or other therapies to promote faster healing and relieve discomfort. Many patients can reduce their risk for dry socket by avoiding activities that might contaminate the wound, interfere with blood clotting or damage the clot. After tooth removal, you will be given a list of instructions for what to do and what not to do. For example, you will be advised against smoking, drinking through a straw, rinsing the mouth too often in the days following oral surgery and other behaviors that increase the chances of dry socket.
How long does recovery take after tooth extraction?
Recovery from tooth removal occurs in stages. The blood clot should form within the first 12 hours. Swelling usually lasts about 48 hours. This is the period when most patients feel the need to use pain medications. In addition to extraction site discomfort, your jaw may be sore for several days if you had to hold your mouth wide open for an extended period of time during the extraction. Stitches are taken out after 3-5 days (if they aren’t dissolving sutures). Discomfort should be minimal by this point. The initial healing of the extraction site takes 1-2 weeks. Gum tissue should be fully healed within a month if there are no complications. The underlying bone will take several months to fill in the empty socket. These later healing stages for the gums and bone should cause no noticeable discomfort.