For many people, the prospect of having a tooth taken out is an alarming one. The vision of a maniacal dentist leaning over you brandishing a huge pair of pliers is enough to send even the bravest patient running for the surgery exit. But is having a tooth extracted really that terrifying a proposition?
Read on to find out why tooth extraction is no more frightening than a regular dental check-up.
When tooth extraction is necessary
Having a tooth taken out is usually the last resort if the tooth cannot be saved. If the tooth is very badly cracked or decayed, extraction may be the only feasible option open to your dentist. Sometimes, a tooth may be removed to remedy overcrowding so you can have braces, or a painful wisdom tooth that is impeding the growth of the teeth in front of it may also require extraction.
Teeth that have been removed can be replaced by implants, bridges or dentures, so there's no need to be concerned that you will be left with a gappy smile following extraction of a problem tooth. Your dentist will talk through all the options available before the removal of the tooth goes ahead.
Tooth extraction – what to expect
Your dentist will first take X-rays of the problem tooth. X-rays allow the dentist to see the exact position of the tooth and its root so that any potential complications can be identified and planned for.
The dentist will then discuss your medical history with you and assess your general health. This is important as you will require some sort of anaesthesia for the extraction procedure.
Simple tooth extractions are carried out under a local anaesthetic, just like when you have a filling. If you are very anxious about the procedure, you may be able to have additional sedation in the form of nitrous oxide (gas) or a drug to be taken orally. If the extraction is likely to be more complex, or if you have more than one tooth to be taken out, conscious sedation may be recommended, which is provided directly into your bloodstream intravenously.
The nature of the anaesthesia you will have for the procedure will be agreed in advance so that you can arrange for transport to and from the dentist on that day.
When the anaesthetic has taken effect, the dentist will remove the tooth. Your teeth are actually quite easy to remove; they are only attached to your jaw bone via a set of fibrous ligaments. Careful twisting and manipulation are all that's required to dislodge the tooth, which can then be lifted out.
Your dentist will recommend that you take over-the-counter medication for a few days following the extraction, as the area is likely to be bruised and sore. Any discomfort should recede quickly, and the wound site will heal by itself over the course of 24 hours or so.