A dental extraction (also referred to as tooth extraction, exodontia, exodontics, or informally, tooth pulling) is the removal of teeth from the dental alveolus (socket) in the alveolar bone. Extractions are performed for a wide variety of reasons, but most commonly to remove teeth which have become unrestorable through tooth decay, periodontal disease or dental trauma, especially when they are associated with toothache. Sometimes wisdom teeth are impacted (stuck and unable to grow normally into the mouth) and may cause recurrent infections of the gum (pericoronitis). In orthodontics if the teeth are crowded, sound teeth may be extracted (often bicuspids) to create space so the rest of the teeth can be straightened.
Tooth extraction is usually relatively straightforward, and the vast majority can be usually performed quickly while the individual is awake by using local anesthetic injections to eliminate painful sensations. Local anesthetic blocks pain, but mechanical forces are still felt. Some teeth are more difficult to remove for several reasons, especially related to the tooth’s position, the shape of the tooth roots and the integrity of the tooth. Dental phobia is an issue for some individuals, and tooth extraction tends to be feared more than other dental treatments like fillings. If a tooth is buried in the bone, a surgical or trans alveolar approach may be required, which involves cutting the gum away and removal of the bone which is holding the tooth in with a surgical drill. After the tooth is removed, stitches are used to replace the gum into the normal position.
Immediately after the tooth is removed, a bite pack is used to apply pressure to the tooth socket and stop the bleeding. After a tooth extraction, dentists usually give advice which revolves around not disturbing the blood clot in the socket by not touching the area with a finger or the tongue, by avoiding vigorous rinsing of the mouth and avoiding strenuous activity. Sucking, such as through a straw, is to be avoided. If the blood clot is dislodged, bleeding can restart, or alveolar osteitis (“dry socket”) can develop, which can be very painful and lead to delayed healing of the socket. Smoking is avoided for at least 24 hours as it impairs wound healing and makes dry socket significantly more likely. Most advise hot salt water mouth baths which start 24 hours after the extraction.
The branch of dentistry that deals primarily with extractions is oral surgery (“exodontistry”), although general dentists and periodontists often carry out tooth extraction routinely since it is a core skill taught in dental schools. Periodontists are performing more and more extractions, since they often follow up and place a dental implant.
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