There are times when it is necessary to remove a tooth. Sometimes a baby tooth has misshapen or long roots that prevent it from falling out as it should, and the tooth must be removed to make way for the permanent tooth to erupt. At other times, a tooth may have so much decay that it puts the surrounding teeth at risk of decay, so your doctor may recommend removal and replacement with a bridge or implant. Infection, orthodontic correction, problems with a wisdom tooth, or other general dental concerns can also require tooth removal.
When it is determined that a tooth needs to be removed, your dentist may extract it during a regular checkup or request another visit for this procedure. The root of each tooth is encased within your jawbone in a “tooth socket,” and your tooth is held in that socket by a ligament. To extract a tooth, your dentist must expand the socket and separate the tooth from the ligament holding it in place. While this procedure is typically very quick, it is important to share any concerns or preferences for sedation with your doctor.
Once we remove a tooth, neighboring teeth may shift, causing problems with chewing or jaw joint function. To avoid these complications, your dentist may recommend replacing the extracted tooth.
Wisdom teeth are molars found in the very back of your mouth. They usually appear when patients are in their late teens or early twenties. However, they may be impacted (fail to erupt) due to lack of room in the jaw or angle of entry. In addition, there is a greater chance that the teeth’s roots have not fully formed and the bone surrounding the teeth is less dense. These two factors can make extraction easier and shorten recovery time.
The most common type of impacted wisdom tooth is “mesial,” angled toward the front of your mouth. When a wisdom tooth is impacted, it may require removal. You may develop gum tenderness, swelling, or even severe pain if the tooth is not removed. In addition, partially or fully erupted impacted wisdom teeth tend to be challenging to clean. Therefore, they are susceptible to tooth decay, recurring infections, and gum disease.
Each patient’s situation is unique. Your dentist will usually take a panoramic X-ray to determine whether your wisdom teeth need to be removed. If your dentist recommends wisdom teeth removal, it is best to have them removed sooner rather than later.
To remove a wisdom tooth, we first numb the area around the tooth with a local anesthetic. Since the impacted tooth may still be under the gums and embedded in your jawbone, your dentist will need to remove a portion of the covering bone to extract the tooth.
Your dentist will often “section” your wisdom tooth to minimize the amount of bone removed from the tooth. They will remove each piece through a small opening in the bone.
Once your wisdom teeth have been extracted, the healing process begins. Depending on the degree of difficulty related to the extraction, healing time varies. Your dentist will share with you what to expect and provide instructions for a comfortable, efficient healing process.