When Does a Tooth Extraction Become a Necessity?
Our permanent teeth are meant to last a lifetime, but unfortunately there are circumstances that may require the extraction of one or more of your teeth. Because of the traumatic nature of the procedure, it is only recommended when the tooth cannot be saved or if leaving it in will cause more damage to the surrounding teeth and gums. You may need a tooth extraction if:
- The tooth is too damaged for repair
- The infection has reached the pulp (marrow), and is unresponsive to antibiotics and root canal therapy
- You have advanced periodontal disease, causing the gums to recede and loosen around your teeth
- Your mouth is crowded because of too many large back teeth, and if an emerging tooth cannot come out of the gums
Although tooth extractions are generally safe for the vast majority of patients, it may be risky if you suffer from certain conditions that make you more vulnerable to infection. You may have increased risk of complications if you have the following:
- Congenital heart defects or conditions
- Damaged or artificial heart valves
- A weak or debilitated immune system
- Cirrhosis (liver disease)
- Artificial joints
Before considering a tooth extraction procedure, make sure to inform your dentist of your complete medical history, including the medications and supplements you are currently taking.
What to Expect When Getting a Tooth Extraction
Before your tooth is pulled, your dentist will inject local anesthetic to the surrounding area. If you are still anxious and not sufficiently relaxed, you can discuss which sedation option is right for you. If multiple teeth need to be extracted, you may receive general anesthesia so you can sleep peacefully during your treatment.
Some teeth may be harder to remove, which can prolong the tooth extraction process. Impacted teeth in general tend to be the hardest to extract, due to the fact that they are under your gum and bone tissue. If it is especially large and embedded in your gums and jawbone, it may be divided into separate pieces before it can be completely removed.
After the tooth has been pulled, a blood clot should form in the now empty socket. The dentist will place a gauze pad at the site of extraction, which you need to bite on to halt the bleeding. Self-dissolving stitches may be used to close your gum tissue, which may aid the clotting and healing process.
To aid your post-extraction recovery and minimize any lingering pain and discomfort, Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies strongly recommends the following:
- Take pain medication as prescribed. Over-the-counter pain medication may be just as effective, though make sure to take no more than the recommended amount.
- Bite gently on the gauze pad to minimize bleeding and accelerate clot formation. Change the gauze pads before it gets completely soaked with blood.
- Reduce swelling by applying an ice bag over the affected area for 10 minutes at a time.
- Don’t go back to work or school the day after the procedure. Rest thoroughly for the first 24 hours, then limit your activities in the next following days.
- Be gentle. Eat carefully and avoid eating on the same side as the extraction if you can help it. Rinse or spit carefully to avoid removing the delicate clot that just formed.
- Once the first 24 hours has passed, rinse your mouth periodically with warm salt water (1/2 tsp salt with 8 ounces of water).
- Abstain from drinking through a straw for the first day.
- If you smoke, wait at least a week before returning to your habit.
- Eat soft foods in the first few days. You can gradually add harder foods as you start to heal and feel better.
- Prop your head when you sleep, to encourage the clotting process.
- Carefully brush and floss, but avoid the empty socket to prevent additional injury and aggravation.
In most circumstances, post-procedure recovery is relatively complication-free. However, some patients do experience post-treatment symptoms that require an immediate trip back to the dentist. Contact your dentist immediately if you experience the following:
- Bleeding or pain that intensifies after more than 4 hours after your extraction
- Dislodgement of the blood clot in the socket, exposing the bone underneath (dry socket)
- Fever, chills, nausea and/or vomiting
- The area of extraction continues to be inflamed and swollen, or produces discharge despite following pot-treatment protocols
- Coughing, chest pain, and/or shortness of breath
Though you should start feeling normal again in a few days, complete healing should take about 1 to 2 weeks. In the meantime, you should consider your tooth replacement options with your dentist to prevent additional dental problems down the road.
Schedule a Tooth Extraction
If you think you may need a tooth extraction and would like to know more about the dental treatments we offer, or if you want to make an appointment, call our Fort Collins office today at (970) 223-6101. For your convenience, you can also reach us online by submitting a contact or appointment request using the form below.