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Tooth Extraction

Reasons to Have One, What to Expect, Associated Risks & More

Key Points

  • The article discusses the five main reasons for tooth extraction: abscess, overcrowded teeth, gum disease, tooth injury, and problematic impacted tooth.
  • It provides an overview of the tooth extraction process, which is usually an outpatient procedure conducted by a dentist, oral surgeon, or periodontist to prevent overcrowding or infection.
  • The piece also details the potential risks involved in tooth extraction, such as dry socket, infection, nerve damage, bruising, swelling, pain, slow healing, fractures from dental tools, damage to other teeth, and reactions to medication.
  • It offers insights on what to expect before, during, and after a tooth extraction.
  • The article concludes with a list of essential questions to ask your doctor about the procedure.

5 Reasons You Would Need Tooth Extraction

1. Abscess

A tooth abscess is a buildup of bacteria in the center of a tooth that causes infection.[1] An abscess may form on behalf of tooth decay, or when a tooth is broken, chipped, or injured. The main symptom of a tooth abscess is a severe toothache, though other symptoms may include bad breath, fever, pain when chewing, sensitivity to hot or cold food and drinks, and swollen lymph nodes in the jaw or neck. A tooth with an abscess may be pulled to reduce the risk of infection and other complications.[2]

2. Overcrowded Teeth

A tooth may be extracted if it causes problems with overcrowding.[2] Overcrowded teeth can be difficult to clean, which increases the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Extracting one or more problematic teeth can create more room in the mouth for teeth to spread out, and also makes room for braces.[3]

3. Gum Disease

Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, is the inflammation and infection of the ligaments and bones that support teeth.[4] This can lead to loosened teeth along with plaque and tartar buildup that contribute to tooth decay and abscesses. Common symptoms of gum disease include bad breath, bright red gums, bleeding, and swollen gums, gaps between teeth, and shifting teeth. Teeth may be extracted if they are close to falling out or have been damaged by gum disease.[2]

4. Tooth Injury

Tooth extraction may be performed as an emergency dental procedure if a tooth has been injured or subject to trauma.[2] For example, a tooth may be extracted if it was fractured during a fistfight or while playing contact sports like hockey or football. Tooth injuries may lead to complications like infection if not treated promptly.

5. Problematic Impacted Tooth

An impacted tooth is a tooth that has not broken through the gums due to factors such as overcrowding of teeth, a small jaw, or because the tooth has become tilted or displaced under the gums.[5] This is highly common with wisdom teeth, which emerge during a person’s late teens and early 20s after all other teeth have grown in. Impacted teeth are often painless and do not cause problems, but when they do, they may cause symptoms including headaches, gum or jaw pain, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, and bad breath. Impacted teeth that become problematic are usually extracted.[2]

Understanding Tooth Extraction

Tooth extraction is a procedure in which a dentist, oral surgeon, or periodontist removes a tooth from the gum socket.[2] This procedure may be done for several reasons, such as to reduce the risk for infection or prevent the overcrowding of teeth in the mouth.[3] Tooth extraction is normally performed as an outpatient procedure at the dentist’s office or the hospital.

Risks of Tooth Extraction

Dry socket is a common complication of tooth extraction but can be prevented by following your dentist’s instructions for mouth care following the procedure.[6] A tooth that is pulled will leave a hole in the bone called a socket. Following a tooth extraction, a blood clot will form in the socket to protect the bone and nerves. Dry socket occurs when the clot is removed or fails to form, which exposes the bone and nerves to the air to cause pain and sensitivity. Risk factors for dry socket include poor oral health, tobacco use, use of birth control pills, drinking from a straw, and rinsing and spitting following extraction.

Other risks that may occur with tooth extraction include infection, nerve damage, bruising, swelling, pain or discomfort, slow healing, fractures caused by dental tools, damage to other teeth and restorations, and a reaction to medicines used during the procedure.[2]

What to Expect with Tooth Extraction

Before a tooth extraction, your dentist will ask about your medical history to determine whether you have any medical conditions that may increase your risk for infection. Heart disease, liver disease, weakened immunity, and recent surgery are some factors that may lead to infection following tooth extraction.[2]

Your dentist will administer a local anesthetic or general anesthesia to prevent you from feeling pain during the procedure. The use of a local anesthetic is more common with tooth extraction, though general sedation may be used for longer, more complex procedures that involve the removal of several teeth or other dental treatments.[2]

Your dentist will use a tool called an elevator to loosen the affected tooth, then use forceps to remove it. If your dentist is unable to extract the tooth using forceps, the affected tooth may be sectioned or broken into several pieces to allow for easier removal.[2]

After the tooth has been extracted, your dentist will clean the gum socket, smooth out any remaining bone, and close the gum using sutures. You may be instructed to bite down on a piece of gauze for several hours to stop any bleeding and allow a blood clot to form.[2]

You may experience numbness in your lips and cheeks for a few hours following tooth extraction. Your dentist may give you an ice pack to reduce swelling, along with over-the-counter pain relievers or a prescription for painkillers that can help relieve discomfort. Your dentist will also advise you to eat soft foods, avoid the use of a straw, and care for your mouth to promote healing and prevent complications. Healing from a tooth extraction takes an average of between 1 and 2 weeks.[2]

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Tooth Extraction

  • How long does tooth extraction take?
  • What type of anesthesia will I receive?
  • Will I feel any pain during the procedure?
  • Which activities should I avoid after tooth extraction?
  • What can I do to prepare for my appointment?
  • Which foods and beverages should I avoid after tooth extraction?
  • How often should I brush my teeth?
  • How long will it take the socket to heal?
  • How long will I experience pain and discomfort following my procedure?
  • What are the risks and complications of tooth extraction?
  • How soon can I go back to work after tooth extraction?
  • How should I care for my teeth and socket after the extraction?
  • When should I come back for a checkup or follow-up?

Tooth Extraction May Also be Known as:

  • Tooth removal
  • Tooth pulling
  • Dental extraction
  • Exodontia
  • Exodontics
  • Tooth surgery


Frequently asked questions

  • What are the primary reasons for having a tooth extracted?

    The main reasons for tooth extraction include abscess, overcrowded teeth, gum disease, tooth injury, and problematic impacted teeth.
  • Who performs the tooth extraction procedure?

    The tooth extraction procedure is typically performed by a dentist, oral surgeon, or periodontist.
  • What are the potential risks associated with tooth extraction?

    Risks of tooth extraction can include dry socket, infection, nerve damage, bruising, swelling, pain or discomfort, slow healing, fractures caused by dental tools, damage to other teeth and restorations, and reactions to medicines used during the procedure.
  • What can I expect during the tooth extraction process?

    During the tooth extraction process, the problematic tooth is removed by a dental professional. You can expect some level of discomfort, which can be managed with medication.
  • What should I do before and after a tooth extraction?

    Before a tooth extraction, you should discuss any concerns with your doctor and understand the procedure fully. After the extraction, follow the aftercare instructions given by your doctor to ensure proper healing and prevent complications.
  • What is an abscess and how does it lead to tooth extraction?

    An abscess is a bacterial infection in the tooth that can cause severe toothache and other symptoms. If not treated, it can lead to the need for tooth extraction.
  • How does overcrowding contribute to the need for tooth extraction?

    Overcrowding can increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. To prevent these issues, a dentist may recommend tooth extraction.
  • What is an impacted tooth and why might it need to be extracted?

    An impacted tooth, often a wisdom tooth, is one that has not fully emerged from the gums. It can cause various symptoms and may need to be extracted if it becomes problematic.

Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

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