Having a tooth pulled may sound painful, but the truth is that most patients feel little or no discomfort or pain whatsoever during the tooth extraction process. If you need to have a tooth pulled in the Austin, Texas area, it helps to know what to expect beforehand, which is why we’ve compiled this information about what is involved in the tooth extraction process.
The first thing to know about having a tooth pulled is that there are a variety of dental sedation methods available, which means that you and your dentist can choose whichever one would work best to make you as comfortable as possible through the process.
In addition to the standard novocaine used to numb the affected tooth and the surrounding area, your dentist may offer you nitrous oxide (laughing gas) or some form of oral sedation. So you should feel comfortable in knowing that your dentist will make sure that you are comfortable and pain-free throughout the process.
The second thing to know about having a tooth pulled is that there are generally two types of extraction procedures that dentists perform: 1) a simple extraction, and 2) a surgical extraction. Just as the name implies, a surgical extraction involves the dentist making a small incision in the gum tissue in order to gain access to the tooth that needs to be pulled, while the simple procedure doesn’t require any type of incision. If the tooth you need to have pulled has already erupted through the gum tissue, your dentist will perform a simple extraction. But if your tooth is fully or partially covered by gum tissue (which is often the case with wisdom teeth, for example), then your dentist will need to perform a surgical extraction.
Although the exact steps will vary depending on what type of extraction you require, what follows are typically the steps involved in having a tooth pulled:
- Your dentist will provide you with the appropriate sedation or anesthesia. As mentioned above, typical dental sedation methods include nitrous oxide and oral sedation, both of which allow the patient to remain awake during the entire procedure but completely relaxed and at ease. If your tooth extraction is a bit more complicated and/or time consuming, your dentist may recommend general anesthesia, which means that you would not be conscious during the procedure. Either way, it’s best to arrange to have someone drive you home after the procedure since both oral sedation and anesthesia take some time to wear off and driving yourself under that condition would not be safe.
- Your dentist will probably begin the extraction procedure by separating the tooth from the gum tissue surrounding it. This is normally done with the aid of an instrument called a periotome and/or an elevator. This part of the procedure will loosen the tooth sufficiently so that when it is removed from the socket, the surrounding gum tissue is not injured.
- Once the tooth is adequately loosened, your dentist will use forceps to gently rock the tooth back and forth, disconnecting the tooth root from the soft tissues surrounding it, and finally removing the tooth altogether.
- After the tooth is removed, your dentist will place clean gauze in the socket. This protects the extraction site, allowing a blood clot to form in the socket. Your dentist will ask you to bite down gently on the gauze – just enough to hold it firmly in place, but not hard enough to damage the clot.
These steps are what you should expect in a simple extraction. If you need a surgical extraction, the procedure will involve your dentist making an incision in the gum tissue in order to access the tooth. In some instances, the dentist may have to break apart the tooth in order to completely remove it. But whatever type of procedure you require, you should know that the tooth extraction process is no more uncomfortable than any other dental procedure.
After your tooth has been extracted, your dentist will provide you with a full set of instructions on what you should and shouldn’t do to heal completely at home. While it’s true that the procedure itself won’t be painful, you will probably experience some level of discomfort/pain afterward. Your dentist may prescribe a pain medication or recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever to address that issue.
Other recommendations for at-home healing usually include the following:
- Control bleeding by applying gentle pressure on the gauze your dentist placed in the socket. It’s vital that you protect the clot that forms inside the socket, so if you need to replace the gauze with a fresh pad, be extremely careful not to dislodge the clot.
- Reduce any swelling by placing an ice pack on your cheek at the location of the extraction. Keep it there for 10 minutes at time, then remove it for 5 minutes and repeat the cycle until the swelling goes down.
- Get plenty of rest, especially for the first 24 hours after the procedure. It’s best to sleep with your head elevated.
- Eat only soft foods and don’t chew on the side of your mouth where the tooth was pulled.
- Keep the extraction site clean. Wait for about 12 hours after the procedure before you gently rinse your mouth out. After that, you can rinse 3 or 4 times a day using warm salt water. Don’t rinse vigorously since that may dislodge the clot. You should keep up with your dental hygiene routine by brushing your teeth, but avoid the extraction site when you do.
- Avoid any kind of activity that would dislodge the clot. This includes drinking through a straw. You should also avoid exercising for the first couple of days after your tooth extraction.
- Avoid smoking or drinking alcohol, since both can result in damaging the blood clot and slowing the healing process.
While it’s true that not many people would voluntarily sign up to have a tooth pulled, what’s involved in the tooth extraction process isn’t nearly as disturbing as you might imagine. Just remember that the steps you take at home afterward are extremely important in order to heal fully and quickly. For more information, contact your Austin, Texas dentist and schedule an appointment.