February 3, 2010

Tooth Extractions

You may need a tooth extraction to help prevent the spread of infection to other areas of your mouth. For instance, a permanent adult tooth may end up so badly damaged from decay or infection that it will need to be pulled. A bump or blow to the face may loosen a baby tooth before it gets loose on its own. This can make extraction necessary to avoid harm to the new tooth below.

Whatever the cause, if a dentist sees that a tooth extraction is needed, she will plan for the work to be done either in her office or by an oral surgeon.

What to Expect During Oral Surgery

At the start of the work, the dentist will apply a local numbing agent to help dull any pain the work may cause. Local anesthesia may be all that is needed. A stronger general anesthetic may be used if several, and especially if all, teeth need to come out. General anesthesia will put the patient to sleep during the work so that pain will not be felt.

Once the tooth is out, stitches may be needed. Some types of stitches dissolve when their work is done. Others may need to be removed after a few days.

Patients who have artificial heart valves, who were born with heart defects, or who generally struggle with infections may need to take antibiotics before and after oral surgery. This is because some types of dental work can cause bacteria to enter the bloodstream, and that can spread infection through the body.

After the Extraction

Depending on the patient, a pulled tooth may be replaced with an implant, a denture, or a bridge. A bridge is a fixed or removable stand-in for one or more teeth.

When the tooth has been pulled, the dentist will explain how to take care of the area. Recovery may last a few days and may include prescription painkillers. During this time, patients can expect at least a small amount of bleeding. For the first 24 hours, they should take care to avoid any actions that could dislodge the blood clot and delay healing. These are things like smoking, rinsing the mouth too vigorously, or drinking through a straw. If a patient feels the urge to rinse their mouth, he or she should do so gently.

To help reduce swelling, you can apply a cold cloth or ice bag to the affected area. You can also rinse your mouth gently with warm salt water a few times a day, which not only will help to reduce swelling but also can help to ease the pain. To decrease bleeding, you may want to bite down on a gauze pad placed over the wound, being careful to change the gauze before it becomes soaked with blood. Physical activity should also be avoided, since it may stimulate bleeding. Likewise, patients should prop themselves up on pillows to rest, since lying flat may prolong bleeding.

Post-surgery, patients should feel free to brush and floss the teeth as usual, taking care to avoid cleaning the tooth next to the empty socket or touching it with the tongue. They should also choose soft foods for the first few days, such as gelatin, pudding, or thin soup, and then gradually build up to solid foods.