It’s not fun getting a tooth pulled. But we can at least help you understand extractions and how they work to make it as painless as possible.
In this guide we’ll talk about what you can expect during a tooth extraction treatment, and give you some much-needed DIY tips for taking care of your aching mouth once you leave the practice.
Ouch! Think you need a tooth pulled?
If you’re experiencing a sudden sharp or niggling toothache that has you considering an emergency trip to the dentist, then you may be worried about your tooth’s fate. After all, the saying, ‘It’s like pulling teeth,’ exists for a reason. It’s easy to work ourselves into a tizz visualising the needles and gore. But a lot of the time, the fear is worse than the procedure. Once the tooth is removed, a lot of the discomfort you’ve been feeling goes with it.
While most people who see us for a tooth extraction fear the pain, a big part of the problem is not knowing what to expect. And that’s why we want to explain what happens during an extraction. It will not only help you manage any dental anxiety you may be experiencing, but also prepare you for your treatment and a speedy recovery.
Why you may need your tooth removed
The good news is tooth extractions is always a last resort. As dentists, we’d much rather help you keep your natural teeth. If we can save it, we’ll try treatments to do that first. But there are some circumstances where performing an extraction may be the best option.
The primary reasons why we’d pull teeth are:
- crowding in the mouth
- impacted wisdom teeth
- broken, damaged, or decaying teeth that can’t be saved
- teeth that have deep infections but root canal treatment isn’t for you.
Getting ready for a tooth extraction
Preparation is the key to success, right? So before you reach the dental chair for the tooth extraction, a bit of prep work needs to be done.
Your dentist will take an X-ray of your mouth to assess the tooth and determine the best way to remove it. If you have an infection or a pre-existing condition, you may need a course of antibiotics ahead of the procedure.
How you can prepare for your tooth extraction
There are a few things you can do so you come in for your procedure feeling prepared. You’ll want to be in good health, so let your dentist know if you’ve experienced any cold or flu-like symptoms, nausea or vomiting the night before your treatment. It may affect what anaesthetic or pain relief we can administer. Keeping us posted on how you’ve been feeling ahead of the tooth extraction helps us help you.
Assuming you’re fit and well, the only other preparation we’ll need from you is to eat and drink something before you come in. Having a full stomach minimises the chances of you feeling light-headed or faint. And you probably won’t be able to eat for a few hours after treatment, so you may as well do it while you can.
Overcoming pre-treatment anxiety
Feeling nervous? That’s completely normal, especially if you’ve never had a tooth extracted before. To help calm those nerves, try doing something that relaxes you. It could be a gentle walk with nature, listening to music, drawing and painting, reading a book, or simply sitting still and tuning into a guided meditation. If your nerves come back while you’re sitting in the chair, try taking long, deep breaths to help calm your body and ease your tension.
Extracting your tooth
It’s E-Day! (Extraction Day.) So what’s in store for you, exactly?
There are two types of tooth extraction procedures: simple and surgical. The tooth’s root structure—known as root morphology—and the condition of your jawbone dictate which procedure is best. X-rays of your mouth allow your dentist to get a good look at the tooth’s root structure and the bone around it. Let’s run through both.
Simple tooth extractions
For teeth that aren’t fused to the jawbone and where the roots can be easily removed, a simple extraction is carried out. Your dentist will loosen the tooth with an instrument called an elevator, and then use special forceps to grip the tooth and pull it out.
Given the simplicity of this type of procedure, it can be done using a local anaesthetic (i.e. a needle straight into the treatment site).
Surgical tooth extractions
Surgical tooth extractions are more complex. They often require the use of a local anaesthetic, and sometimes a general (IV drip) anaesthetic as well. Surgical extractions tend to be used for:
- wisdom teeth when the tooth hasn’t broken through the gum line
- broken teeth that are damaged at the gum line (meaning the dentist has nothing to grip onto)
- teeth with complex root morphology, which your dentist will see from the X-rays they take.
For this type of extraction, your dentist will decide whether they can do it in practice or need to refer you to an oral surgeon. Their decision is based on the complexity of the tooth’s roots. For example, if the position of the tooth is crooked, partially erupted, or the crown has broken but all of the roots can still be reached, they’ll continue with treatment.
Under these circumstances, we may make a small cut in your gum and possibly remove some of the bone around the tooth.
Will it hurt?
Anaesthetic is always used, so you shouldn’t feel much pain (especially if you’re in hospital and asleep throughout the procedure). However, you may feel a pinch when the anaesthetic needle is administered, although we always use a numbing gel to minimise this. Once the anaesthetic has kicked in, the most you’ll feel is pressure or tugging during the procedure.
Managing pain after a tooth extraction
While a tooth extraction is a relatively quick procedure, it takes a few days for your mouth to start feeling better and a few weeks for the socket in your gum to heal. Healing after a surgical extraction may take longer.
As the anaesthetic wears off, you’ll probably experience some soreness or tenderness at the extraction site. For most people, any pain tends to decrease after the third day. Bruising and tenderness is usually mild, and treatable with over-the-counter painkillers and an ice pack applied to the outside of your jaw. (Your dentist will talk to you about medication and other ways to treat the pain after the procedure.)
Tips for post extraction care once you’re at home
You can expect some bleeding for a day or so after your extraction. So you’ll need to take good care of your mouth once you’re home. It’s especially important not to disturb the blood clot protecting your extraction site.
When you get a tooth pulled with one of our Keppel Dental dentists, we’ll send you home with advice and instructions to help you care for your wound. Here are our top tips for post-operative care to make sure your mouth recovers quickly.
- Don’t touch the site with your tongue or fingers.
- Brush your teeth as normal, but avoid the extraction site.
- Don’t rinse and spit for the first 24 hours. After that, rinse your mouth with a salt solution.
- Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water.
- Take it easy, and prioritise rest and sleep as much as possible.
- Keep your head raised when you sleep. (You might like to try using a second pillow.)
Eating and drinking after an extraction
Even though your mouth may be feeling tender, avoid the temptation to dine on soft, melty comfort foods such as chocolate. As your body heals, you need to eat nutritious foods that will aid your recovery.
You can start eating and drinking as soon as the procedure is over. (Let’s face it: a growling stomach is hard to ignore.) However, we recommend the following:
- consume only soft foods and liquids for the first 24 to 48 hours to avoid chewing
- if you do need to chew, do it on the side of your mouth opposite the extraction site
- avoid very hot and very cold drinks
- avoid drinking through a straw.
Types of soft foods to eat after an extraction
While broth is super nutritious and an excellent post-procedure food choice, there’s lots of other good stuff you can eat.
Straight after your procedure you could try eating:
- lukewarm soups, stews and broths (but nothing too hot)
- smoothies (but nothing icy cold).
In the days that follow you could try eating semi-soft foods such as:
- scrambled eggs
- mashed potatoes
- porridge / oatmeal.
You can expect to be eating normally 24-48 hours after surgery. Just be mindful of the extraction site when you’re chewing.
Worried you need a tooth pulled?
Remember, it’s better that people keep their natural teeth for as long as possible. But if a tooth extraction is your only course of action then familiarising yourself with the procedure can help you prepare and ease any anxiety you’re feeling.
If a dodgy tooth is worrying you, make an appointment to visit your dentist for guidance.
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