Going to the dentist is an annual event not very many people look forward to. For those who know there is something really wrong and the visit will require more than a simple checkup, it can make the thought of going something to avoid. Fortunately, modern dentistry has made some of the most feared procedures such as root canal surgery far less painless. Unfortunately, there are many cases when pulling one of your teeth out, technically known as extraction, is the only way to prevent further dental problems in the future.
Most people start out as adults with 32 teeth, and there are no natural replacements that will grow back. The location where tooth extraction most often becomes necessary is the back of the mouth, also known as the wisdom teeth. One of the most common reasons cited by dentists for having to pull them is improper care – not brushing and flossing carefully enough. This leads to food particles becoming trapped and after time, a cavity forms. Left unattended for long enough, the cavity will pose a risk of infection or worse to the gums and surrounding teeth, requiring extraction.
There are other reasons teeth may require extraction: injury that results in a broken tooth, general infection of the gums, and impacted teeth where one tooth is blocking another from growing out. Dentists know that once a tooth is lost the only way to replace it is by implanting an artificial tooth, which is a fairly common procedure.
The basic procedure to extract a tooth is for the dentist to numb the area surrounding the tooth, including the gum line, with a general anesthetic. Your teeth have nerves on the inside, so while some people believe they can do without the pain killer it is highly recommended. The patient only feels a sharp needle stick for a couple of seconds, and the anesthetic takes about 20 minutes to completely take effect. Some people are known to fall asleep in the dentist’s chair, but you will not be operated on until you wake up.
Yes, this procedure is a surgery. One of the biggest risks of any type of surgery is infection, and this holds true for a tooth extraction. The patient will feel a strong pulling sensation as the dentist uses a special instrument (not a pair of household pliers) to grab and hold the tooth. Once the tooth is completely pulled clear, the dentist will pack the hole in the tooth with sterile gauze to stop the bleeding, usually which is only of the minor type. You are asked to bite down to help stop the bleeding. At this point you are not likely to feel any pain, as the anesthetic will not wear off for a couple of hours.
What you can generally expect to pay for this relatively quick procedure is between $150 and $600 per tooth. Dentists will usually not perform more than one extraction at a time unless the damage is significant enough to require multiple extractions. The problems with multiple extractions are obvious. The amount you pay includes everything: anesthetic, the dentist’s time, and any other dental supplies necessary. You may be prescribed a general pain reliever such as aspirin or NSAID-type pain reliever.
You may be charged more, as much as $800 if your dental situation requires a more complicated procedure, though this is rare. The rule of thumb is as long as there is no damage to the gum line or surrounding teeth, you should end up with a simple procedure and a low cost. Your dentist will evaluate and make a recommendation on how to proceed.
Patients can expect to fully recover from the extraction in about a week. The bleeding should stop within 72 hours, though the norm is actually 24 hours. Continuous bleeding beyond this time means you need to call the dentist. The possibility of a dry socket forming, which is when a blood clot fails to completely form in the hole where the tooth used to be, is the most common problem following an extraction. Should this happen you will be in significant pain and may require a return trip to the dentist, though generally you will be given instructions over the phone on how to proceed.
Is having a tooth extraction something you should worry about? Actually, no. You will be uncomfortable for a few days and then be able to resume your normal life. Your diet will change only a little for the first 24 – 48 hours, and as long as there are no complications, you can return to your normal lifestyle – minus one tooth.