When you were six, losing a tooth was a rite of passage, perhaps achieved by incessant tooth jiggling, biting into a crisp apple or tying a string around the tooth and giving it a pull. As an adult, tooth loss is hardly cause for celebration, yet having a tooth out is sometimes necessary.
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Reasons For Extracting Teeth
Although permanent teeth were meant to last a lifetime, there are a number of reasons why a tooth extraction may be needed. The most common reason is that a tooth that is too badly damaged, from trauma or decay, to be repaired. Other reasons include:
- A crowded mouth – Sometimes dentists extract teeth to prepare the mouth for orthodontics. The goal of orthodontics is to properly align the teeth, which may not be possible if your teeth are too big for your mouth. Likewise, if a tooth cannot break through the gum (erupt) because there is no room in the mouth for it, your dentist may recommend an extraction
- Infection – If tooth decay or damage extends to the pulp (the centre of the tooth containing the nerves and blood vessels), bacteria in the mouth can enter the pulp, leading to infection. If the infection is so severe that antibiotics do not cure it, extraction may be needed to prevent the spread of infection
- Risk of infection – If your immune system is compromised (for example, if you are receiving chemotherapy or are having an organ transplant), even the risk of infection in a particular tooth may be reason to remove the tooth
- Gum disease – If periodontal disease (an infection of the tissues and bones that surround and support the teeth) have caused loosening of the teeth, it may be necessary to extract the tooth or teeth
What To Expect With Tooth Extraction
Before the procedure, your dentist will give you an injection of a local anaesthetic to numb the area where the tooth will be removed. If you are having more than one tooth extracted or a tooth is impacted, your dentist may advise you to have sedation.
You will feel some pressure just before the tooth is removed as your dentist or oral surgeon needs to widen the tooth socket by rocking the tooth back and forth. In some cases, an incision may be needed in your gum and the tooth may need to be cut into smaller pieces before it is removed. The time it takes to remove the tooth will vary, some procedures only take a few minutes, whereas others can take 20 minutes or longer.
Once the tooth has been extracted, a blood clot usually forms in the socket. The dentist will pack a gauze pad into the socket and get you to bite down on it to help stop the bleeding. Sometimes, if the extraction is of a large or wisdom tooth, the dentist may place a few stitches, usually self-dissolving ones, to close the gum edges over the extraction site.
Sometimes, the blood clot in the socket breaks loose, exposing the socket and causing a painful condition called dry socket. If this happens, your dentist will probably place a sedative dressing over the socket for a few days to protect it as a new clot forms.