If your teeth have been damaged beyond repair, or if you have too many teeth that are causing overcrowding, your dentist may opt to remove one or more of your natural teeth in a process called tooth extraction. In most cases, tooth extraction can be performed with local anesthetic injection, and recovery time is minimal. However, for extractions performed on teeth below the gums, most commonly wisdom teeth, a general anesthetic may be required.

Do I Need a Tooth Extraction?

There are several reasons that your dentist may recommend a tooth extraction.

  • To prepare your mouth for braces, your dentist may remove one or more baby teeth.
  • If your mouth is overcrowded, your dentist may remove one or more permanent teeth to make room for your remaining natural teeth.
  • If a tooth is severely damaged, infected, or decayed, your dentist may remove it and replace it with an implant or bridge.
  • Patients receiving radiation therapy on their head or facial area may need to have teeth removed if they’re in the way of radiation.
  • Your dentist may want to remove your wisdom teeth, either before or after they come in, for a number of reasons.

If your dentist decides a tooth extraction is necessary, he or she will schedule an office visit for a simple extraction, or refer you to an oral surgeon for a surgical extraction.

Simple Extractions

Simple extractions are performed on baby teeth or permanent teeth that have come in above the gum line. Typically, these extractions don’t require more than a local anesthetic, and can be performed by your dentist in his or her office. Your dentist will take X-rays of your mouth to determine which teeth need to be removed. During the procedure, after administering a local anesthetic to the gums surrounding the tooth, your dentist will use forceps to remove your tooth. Recovery from a simple extraction usually lasts a few days, during which it’s recommended that you eat only soft foods and rinse your mouth with salt water to prevent infection.

Surgical Extractions

Performed on “impacted” teeth that are hidden partially or completely below the gum line, surgical extractions are typically performed by an oral surgeon upon a referral from your dentist. For more complicated procedures like wisdom teeth extraction, your dentist may suggest sedation, which allows you to “sleep” through the surgery. Although sedation is used to alleviate anxiety and reduce discomfort, most tooth extractions can be performed without full or even partial sedation.

Your dentist or oral surgeon will make an incision in your gum in order to extract the tooth; sometimes, the tooth needs to be removed in two or more pieces from within the gum. The healing period for a surgical extraction is more painful than that of a simple extraction, so your doctor may prescribe stronger pain medication for the first few days of recovery.

Sometimes, wisdom teeth extraction causes pain for several days or weeks after the surgery. To avoid complications like dry sockets, follow your dentist’s instructions, and use appropriate pain medication and ice packs to reduce your pain.

If you think you may need a tooth extracted, call your dentist today to discuss your options.

Be proud of your smile.