Tooth extractions are often due to pain and poor oral hygiene. One study found that 37.5% of people get extractions because they experience pain. However, you may also have to remove a tooth due to:
- Severe tooth decay
- Broken tooth
- Impact injury
- Many other reasons
If you need an extraction, understanding the procedure, healing process and aftercare tips can provide peace of mind.
How are Teeth Extracted?
Tooth extractions are complex procedures that can be either simple or surgical extractions. First, we will have you in our office so that we can examine your teeth, take x-rays and better understand which type of extraction is ideal for you.
If there’s enough tooth structure for a simple extraction, then you’ll need a local anesthetic to numb the extraction area. The goal is for every patient to be comfortable and pain-free during the extraction, but you’ll likely feel pressure on your jaw and tooth.
We’ll loosen the tooth using forceps, a lifter or elevators.
Once we loosen the tooth enough, we can then use forceps to remove it entirely. Depending on the tooth and extraction, we may need to place a suture on the tooth to ensure that it heals properly with as little risk of complications as possible.
How do we decide if a simple extraction is possible?
Simple extractions work best on teeth that are above the gum line. If we can see the tooth above the gum and the remaining tooth is strong enough for us to remove, then we’ll proceed with the extraction.
Additionally, a simple extraction heals faster than a surgical extraction.
When the tooth is below the gum line or the structure is too weak for us to remove the tooth in its entirety, a surgical extraction is the best option. Surgical removal is more complex, and we’ll need to use local anesthesia.
Once your gums are numb, we’ll make an incision near your gumline to allow easy access to the bone and tooth that remains under the gums.
Depending on the severity of the tooth decay, we may need to remove the tooth in question in sections. After the removal, we’ll need to suture the gum together because an empty socket is left in the place of the removed tooth.
Blood will fill the tooth’s cavity and allow a clot to form. The clot will promote healing, and over the next week or two, you’ll need to be cautious of the foods you eat because the gums will be sore and healing is still taking place.
How Do Gums Heal After a Tooth is Extracted?
Tooth extraction is the first step of the healing process. The extraction site will need to heal when we remove the decayed or broken tooth. If you don’t take exercise proper post-operative teeth care during the initial stages of healing, it can lead to:
- Dry socket - a rare but painful condition
The gum healing process begins the moment that the tooth is extracted and will follow a cycle that is similar to the following:
- 0 - 24 Hours: During the initial 24 hours of healing, a blood clot will fill the hole where the tooth was once located. This is one of the most important moments of the healing process because dry socket can form if the clot doesn’t fill the hole in your tooth. Blood clots protect the inner gums from bacteria and food particles. Once the clot is properly formed, the jawbone and gums can begin healing with little risk of infection.
- 24 - 48 Hours: Soreness and discomfort are common in the first few days after the extraction. You must be very cautious during this period because the blood clot can easily dislodge. It’s important to avoid drinking through straws, eating certain foods or doing anything that can dislodge the blood clot. Any bleeding or swelling that you’ve been experiencing will start to subside by the end of this period.
- 48 - 72 Hours: In the 24-hour period after the 48-hour mark, your gums will start to heal. Gum regeneration and healing take place from this day forward.
After 7 - 10 days, the hole in your gum will be filled with new gum tissue. If you need stitches to close the hole in your tooth, they’ll begin to dissolve at this stage in the healing process. We might need to remove the sutures if we can’t use dissolving sutures.
Now, you’ll likely be able to eat most foods without pain or discomfort. The healing will continue for several weeks. In fact, it can take an entire month for the hole left behind in your tooth to heal with new tissue. However, the healing takes longest for large teeth, such as your wisdom teeth or molars.
How Long Does the Healing Process Take?
Healing can take 3 to 4 weeks in total. At this point, your gums are sufficiently healed to the point where there’s no distinct indent in the gum. You can return to regular activities and eat normally after the first week or two following the extraction.
How long will you feel pain after an extraction?
Pain is the biggest concern for most patients. No one wants to feel pain when they eat, drink or are enjoying their normal activities. An extraction is a serious procedure. Most people will have pain and discomfort for a few days after the procedure.
Each day after the extraction will be better than the last.
Most people notice that the pain lasts 3 - 7 days, but after the third or fourth day, the pain is very minor and may not be present at all.
Note: If the pain has not subsided by the 5th day post-extraction or is very intense, please call our office to examine your extraction site. You should not feel excruciating pain if the jawbone and gums heal properly.
Tooth Extraction Aftercare Tips
Extractions are serious procedures, yet with the proper care, you’ll heal fully and can return to your normal activities. We recommend that you follow the aftercare tips below to improve your odds of a fast, painless healing process:
- Take antibiotics as recommended: We’ll prescribe antibiotics, which you will take following the extraction. Antibiotics will prevent an infection from occurring and should be taken until the bottle is empty. Even if you feel fine, you should finish the prescription to lower the risk of infection.
- Painkillers: Prescription or over-the-counter painkillers may be recommended. You can take these until the pain subsides. Some patients never take pain medication, but this is a personal choice that you’ll need to make on your own.
- No spitting: Spitting is a big “no-no” because the force you exert may be enough to dislodge the blood clot that has formed in your gums.
- No straws: Any sucking action can also cause the blood clot to loosen and come out. Straws are a major concern because they often result in blood clots loosening or coming out completely. We want to avoid any risk of dry socket because it is one of the most intense pains in the dental industry.
- Continue brushing and flossing: You should continue brushing and flossing your teeth as normal following the extraction. However, it’s important that you avoid the extraction site for a few days while the gum heals. If you do brush the extraction site on accident, it can lead to the blood clot loosening.
- Rest for a day: Going back to your normal routine is something that you may want to do, but allow yourself a day or two to recover. The extraction site is very delicate, and you’ll want to avoid any strenuous activity for the first day or two.
- Eat soft foods: One of the best things that you can do is go to the grocery store before you have your tooth extracted and buy soft foods to eat. You’ll want to eat things such as ice cream, pudding or anything else that doesn’t require much chewing. Soup is also fine, but be sure that it is cool before eating it.
- Avoid hot liquids or foods: Hot liquids and foods should be avoided for the first three days. Even hot coffee should be avoided because the heat can cause the blood clot to loosen and fall out.
- Ice the area: Place an ice pack on your cheek in the location where you had the tooth extracted. Ice packs will help relieve any swelling that you may have and also help reduce the discomfort. Just remember to cover the ice pack before placing it on your skin and only apply it for 10 minutes at a time.
Tooth extractions are a common procedure that we perform often. If you follow the tips above, we’re confident that you’ll have little-to-no complications following your procedure. However, if you still feel discomfort after a week or have severe pain, we ask that you call us immediately so that we can perform an exam and offer the best treatment possible to ease your discomfort.