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Extracting a Tooth

You went to the dentist today. He said those words no one wants to hear – “These are going to have to come out.” Now you’re panicking.

Relax. It’s nothing to worry about. And it’s not a reflection of a personal flaw. In fact, there are lots of reasons you might need to have a tooth removed. Sure, it might be because it’s too badly damaged or decayed to save, but it could also simply be because the tooth is causing crowding, an improper bite, or preventing another tooth from coming in.

How Is a Tooth Removed?

So what can you expect? First of all, your dentist will use a local anesthetic to completely numb the area around the tooth to be removed. Then he’ll gently move the tooth back and forth to loosen it from the socket. To control bleeding afterwards, your dentist will place a gauze pad over the gums where the tooth was removed.

While your dentist will give you specific instructions, the gauze is usually left in place for 30 to 45 minutes after you leave the office. Do not chew on the gauze. Don’t panic if there’s bleeding after you remove the pack – it’s normal. In fact, your dentist will give you directions for what to do if this happens. Eventually, a blood clot will form in the socket.

The Aftermath

Do not be grossed out. This blood clot is part of the natural healing process and should not be disturbed. Here’s how you can protect it:
•Do not rinse your mouth vigorously, smoke, or drink through a straw for 24 hours. These activities create suction in the mouth that could dislodge the clot and delay healing.
•Do not clean the teeth next to the healing tooth socket for the rest of the day. Gently rinse your mouth after you brush and floss your other teeth.
•Limit vigorous activity for 24 hours after the extraction. This will reduce bleeding and help the blood clot to form.

After your tooth is removed, you may also notice some swelling. You can help reduce the chipmunk effect by applying an ice bag or cold, moist cloth compress to your face occasionally.

While on the road to recovery, drink lots of liquids and eat soft, nutritious foods. Avoid alcoholic drinks and hot liquids. As soon as you can chew comfortably, usually the next day, begin eating solid foods. However, don’t try to chew on the side where the tooth was extracted for several days. If you experience nausea and vomiting, call your dentist.

Your dentist may prescribe medication to control the pain and to prevent infection. Use it only as directed and if the medicine does not seem to work for you, do not increase the dosage. If you have severe pain, swelling, bleeding, or fever, call your dentist right away.

Completion of the Healing Process

After the tooth is removed, the initial healing process usually takes one to two weeks. The filling in and reshaping of the jawbone will continue for several months after the tooth has been removed.

That’s it! That wasn’t so bad, was it? A tiny little tweak and you’re done. So don’t panic.

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