A tooth extraction is one of the most common procedures performed at a dentist’s office. Simply put, an extraction means pulling a tooth.

Why would a tooth need to be pulled?
Tooth extractions may be necessary if there is disease, trauma or overcrowding. Common examples include the following:

  • Wisdom teeth;
  • Decayed teeth;
  • Broken teeth;
  • Overcrowding;
  • Loose teeth; or
  • To get ready for braces.

Before any of the above takes place, the dentist will review an x-ray and complete an examination. They will then make a diagnosis and work with the patient to determine the next course of treatment.

How does the dentist extract a tooth?
After the dentist and patient decide an extraction is necessary, an x-ray is used to further evaluate the tooth and determine the best method of extraction. The procedure may be performed under local anesthesia to minimize discomfort, or general anesthesia if more than one tooth is removed or if the patient requests a more aggressive form of sedation. There are two types of dental extractions:

Simple Extraction – This happens when a tooth that can be seen in the mouth. Forceps are used to remove the tooth.

Surgical Extraction – In this case, teeth have been broken off, had a root canal, or have not erupted into the mouth (we often see this with wisdom teeth). It is a more complex extraction that may require removing bone around the tooth or sectioning the tooth into pieces and extracting them separately. This procedure may require moderate sedation.

After the extraction, stitches may be necessary. Dentists will also often recommend a bridge, implant or denture to replace one or more missing teeth.

What’s the recovery like from a tooth extraction?
After the extraction, patients may experience a certain amount of pain or swelling. The pain can usually be relieved by applying an ice pack to the cheek or jaw, rinsing with warm salt water, and taking anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen. Rest and minimal movement for two to three days following the procedure are also recommended if swelling occurs.

Antibiotics may be prescribed to fight infection. Patients are also advised to avoid tobacco, certain foods and hot liquids for 24 hours after the procedure. A follow-up appointment may be necessary to remove stitches.

Most patients recover completely from a tooth extraction within one to two weeks.

Could there be complications from a tooth extraction?

The dental extraction procedure is safe for most patients with minimal to no complications. While most complications are rare, they occasionally occur and may include the following:

  • Accidental damage to surrounding teeth;
  • Fractured jaw;
  • Soreness in the jaw;
  • Dry socket or exposure of bone in the tooth socket; or
  • Infection.

Patients may also experience side effects from anesthesia or moderate sedation. The dentist or surgeon will discuss any potential side effects before the procedure.