Teeth need to be extracted (removed) when they are severely decayed or infected. Other reasons for dental extractions include impacted teeth, dental abscesses, orthodontics (extracting teeth to create space to move the other teeth around), or extractions due to trauma.
Dental extractions are usually straightforward and can be performed while the individual is awake using local anaesthetic injections. Some teeth are more difficult to remove and will involve cutting the gum and using a surgical drill to get the tooth out, then stitching the gum back in place. This is known as a surgical extraction. If having a surgical extraction, multiple teeth removed, or if dental phobic, your surgeon may recommend a general anaesthetic for the procedure.
The amount of downtime after a dental extraction will depend on the number of teeth removed and how much surgery was involved with their removal. Taking the rest of the day off work or school is all that may be required after removal of a single tooth. Up to a week may be required if multiple teeth have been removed. During this time a soft diet is advised in addition to avoiding alcohol and cigarette smoking.
Some health funds will cover dental extractions.
Questions about teeth extractions
What can I expect after the surgery?
You can expect to have a little oozing of blood for a short time (up to eight hours) following an extraction. There will be some swelling of the face on the same side where the tooth was removed. Ice packs will help during the first 24 hours.
You may notice some or all of the following after the operation; these are common and do not necessarily indicate a complication:
* Bruising of the face and neck on the side operated on;
* Stiffness of the jaw muscles making it difficult to open the mouth for up to a week;
* Dryness and cracking of the corners of the mouth where they have been stretched during tooth removal. Application of a strong moisturiser (such as Vaseline) to the lips will make them more comfortable;
* Tenderness of the adjacent teeth for a short period of time;
* There may be a cavity where the tooth was removed. This should be kept as clean as possible with either warm salty water or a mouth wash. This cavity will fill in with time;
* Numbness of the lip, chin and tongue for a few hours after the procedure. This is because local anaesthesia has been used to make you feel comfortable during and after the surgery;
You may be prescribed pain killers, anti-inflammatories or antibiotics after the procedure.
What are the complications of dental extractions?
All surgical procedures have risks however the majority of people having dental extractions will not have any complications. The most common complications are post-operative bleeding and infection. To reduce the risk of infection your surgeon may prescribe antibiotics.
In rare situations there may be a change in sensation, numbness or tingling of the lip, chin, gum or tongue which is often temporary but occasional permanent. In some cases, the taste of food may be affected. This is due to the proximity of nerves to where the teeth are. It the nerve is injured it will usually recover within eight weeks but can take up to 18 months.
After a dental extraction, a blood clot will form in the bone where the tooth was removed. This blood clot is important for appropriate healing and relief of pain. If this blood clot is washed away the bone becomes exposed causing a constant, throbbing, and radiating pain. This is known as a dry socket. This can be easily treated by contacting your surgeon. You can prevent a dry socket from occurring by not rinsing on the first day of surgery, and not smoking for at least two weeks after surgery.
Other complications include damage to adjacent teeth, sinus problems, and difficulty opening your mouth, temporomandibular joint problems and poor or prolonged healing. Though exceedingly rare, there is also the possibility of an allergic reaction to the medications administered.