Removing the Facts: Tooth Extraction

Tooth extraction is an old procedure, but modern techniques make for a more comfortable and safe procedure

Back in the old days, when you needed a tooth removed, you may find a strong cord to tie around the unwanted tooth and the other end would be tied around a doorknob. Then someone slams the door, and the tooth usually comes out.

Well, that method seems a bit haphazard and medicine has come a long way since then. Today, before using forceps, the first step to tooth extraction requires a dentist (or oral surgeon) to use an x-ray machine to see the tooth they’re extracting in its entirety. They may also prescribe specific antibiotics to keep an infection contained while a local or general anesthetic is administered, which will eliminate anxiety and pain associated with the procedure.

The extraction method itself, which doctors refer to as exodontia, is usually straightforward enough – though now it should be noted that extractions should be performed only by a trained and qualified medical professional. Usually, forceps are used to hold and wiggle the tooth, taking the root and all, right out of its socket. In some isolated cases, the tooth needs be broken into pieces prior to extraction. And in cases of impacted teeth, i.e. teeth that haven’t erupted through the surface of the gums, require the dentist or oral surgeon to cut away at the gum tissue first before exposing the tooth.

The specific reasons why people need their teeth extracted vary, but in most cases, the bad tooth cannot be saved and just causes the patient pain. This is usually due to tooth decay, periodontal disease and dental trauma. In urgent cases, a tooth (or teeth) may become severely infected and require immediate action. Often, with wisdom teeth, the mouth may become naturally overcrowded and cannot be fixed through orthodontics.

Once the tooth extraction procedure is complete, patients are given stern directions from their dentist or oral surgeon: go home and rest. Recovery does take a few days, and the patient should relax to ensure a full recovery. This includes keeping the head elevated, applying ice for swelling and possibly biting down slightly on a gauze pad to help with any bleeding. After about 24 hours, the patient can begin regular rinsing with a warm saltwater solution – but waiting a 24 hour period is necessary, doctors say, so as not to dislodge the blood clot that forms inside the empty socket (known as a painful condition called “dry socket”).

Nevertheless losing teeth tops the list of common nightmares, but when you think about it there is no reason given today’s medical knowledge that a tooth extraction needs to be feared or even uncomfortable. Your dentist or oral surgeon will help you every step of the way!

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