Tooth Extraction and Wisdom Teeth
No one likes the idea of tooth extraction, but the chances are that you will have at least one tooth extraction in your lifetime. You can feel better, though. People in the past often had many. In fact, the first real Western dentists were also barbers whose dentistry was entirely comprised of extracting teeth. Almost any tooth that gave pain was extracted. There were no other treatments. Not only that, certain doctors in the past extracted teeth to cure ailments in the rest of the body. None of this is true today.
What is true is that unwanted teeth are extracted. The reasons for a tooth’s being no longer wanted are varied. One of the main reasons for extractions is that there is not sufficient space in the mouth to accommodate all teeth there. You may have extractions before braces are placed in the mouth or simply because your teeth are being pushed together as new teeth come in. Older people may need extractions for a more attractive fitting of dentures.
A common type of extraction because of concerns over space is removal of the wisdom teeth. These teeth are the last four molars, or large back grinding teeth, that come into the mouth most often in the adolescent years. When there is not enough room for the wisdom teeth, their arrival can disturb the alignment of the teeth already in the jaw. Sometimes a wisdom tooth is impacted; that is, it does not emerge from the jaw but tries to emerge sideways into the root of an adjacent tooth. This can cause a fair amount of pain. Often, then, people have the wisdom teeth extracted.
Another problem that leads to extraction is that a tooth has become so damaged by breakage or decay that it cannot be crowned but must be replaced with a tooth implant. Sometimes, also, a tooth infection is so advanced that the only hope of preserving the remainder of the teeth is to get rid of the infected tooth by extraction. Malformed teeth will also be removed in some cases.
Less commonly, people with mouth cancer being treated with radiation can require extractions before treatment of the area as the teeth may act as a barrier to radiation.
Extractions are of two types: simple and complex. In a simple extraction, the tooth can be grasped and pulled out from above the gum line. All that is required is a simple lift to the tooth, a loosening, and a pull. Unless there has been infection to the tooth, these extractions do not entail any pain prior to the operation. The real pain is not felt because the tooth is extracted under local anesthetic. Afterwards, there will be soreness, but little pain.
In the other type of extraction, the tooth is only present below the gum line. This poses a difficulty for a dentist, and the tooth is sometimes broken before removal. This can make for a slower recovery time with more chance of soreness and swelling. Sometimes these complex extractions are performed by a specialized dentist or under general anesthetic.
Complete recovery at the extraction site sometimes takes several months. For the patient, however, there is usually little discomfort in a matter of weeks. Immediately after the extraction, the patient is advised against drinking hot liquids, sucking, and eating for the first few hours. Rinsing gently with warm salt water helps to speed healing, and antibiotics may be prescribed to combat an existing infection or the risk of a new infection’s developing.
Most people will eventually face an extraction. If you must have an extraction, remember to console yourself with the certainty that a modern patient really has an advantage over patients of the past. In the old procedure, offered by the barber dentists, most of the teeth were permanently extracted tooth by tooth with little anesthetic and with no chance of replacement. Modern extractions are clean and virtually painless, and the tooth socket usually heals completely in a matter of months. Moreover, your extraction is most often the first step in the full restoration of the tooth site. After the extraction, most patients are looking forward to improvement of their smiles and continued maintenance of their general and oral health.