Our permanent teeth are meant to last a lifetime but sometimes that grand plan doesn’t hold true and one or more teeth must be extracted. There are a number of issues that can lead to tooth extraction; the most common being a badly damaged tooth from trauma or decay. Some other reasons include:
- Dentists sometimes must pull teeth in preparation for orthodontia. The goal of orthodontia is to properly align the teeth, but the procedure might not even be possible if your teeth are too big for their limited space. Extraction is also recommended if a particular tooth cannot break through the gum because there is simply not enough room.
- When tooth decay or damage migrates to the tooth pulp—the sensitive center of the tooth containing nerves and blood vessels—bacteria can find its way to the pulp and cause infection. This can sometimes be corrected with a root canal but severe infections resistant to antibiotics may require extraction to prevent the spread of infection.
- If your immune system is compromised in some way, even the slightest risk of infection in a particular tooth may be reason enough to pull it to reduce the spread of infection.
- Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is an infection of the tissues and bones that surround and support the teeth. Advanced cases that cause loosening of teeth may warrant pulling a tooth or multiple teeth.
Promoting healing following tooth extraction
When you’ve had a tooth extracted, it is critical to take care of your mouth. Sticking to a strategy from the first day after a procedure can help you feel better and heal faster. Here are some of the most beneficial approaches to efficient healing:
Bleeding in the area of a now-absent tooth is common. To help control it, bite firmly on the gauze placed by your dentist; the pressure will help form a blood clot in the tooth socket. In cases of heavier bleeding, bite on a regular tea bag. The tannic acid in tea aids in forming a blood clot. Bite on the gauze or tea bag until the bleeding stops.
Keep pain to a minimum
To lessen any pain, take prescribed medicine as directed. Don’t drive while taking any pain medicine, as some medicines can make you feel drowsy. Ask your dentist if it is okay to take additional over-the-counter medicine if you need it.
To reduce swelling of the extraction site and surrounding area, hold an ice pack on your cheek near the extraction site for 10 minutes, and then remove it for 5 minutes. Repeat as needed. You may see some bruising on your face but don’t worry; this is normal and will go away on its own. If you don’t have a medical ice pack handy, make your own by filling a plastic bag with ice and wrapping it in a thin towel.
Get plenty of rest
Rest is very important during recovery and healing from tooth extraction. Limit activities for the first 24 hours after an extraction. Rest during the day and go to bed early. When lying down, try to elevate your head slightly.
In addition to the above, be aware of this list of dos and don’ts:
- Eat a diet of soft, healthy foods and snacks, and drink plenty of liquids.
- Brush your teeth gently and avoid brushing around the extraction. Don’t use any toothpaste, as rinsing toothpaste from your mouth can dislodge the blood clot.
- Keep the extraction site clean. Wait 12 hours before gently rinsing your mouth, and then do so 4 times a day with 1 teaspoon of salt in a glass of water.
- Don’t drink with a straw. Sucking on a straw could dislodge the blood clot.
- Don’t drink hot liquids as they may increase swelling. Limit alcohol use; excessive alcohol intake may slow healing.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking may break down the blood clot and cause a painful tooth socket.
- Don’t brush or floss the extraction site; doing so can invite infection.
In all cases, contact your dentist right way in the event of severe pain the day after extraction, bleeding that is difficult to control, worsening swelling around the site, itching or rashes appearing after taking prescribed medicine.