Sometimes a tooth has to be removed. It might have decay, gum disease, or a fracture beyond what we can repair, or we may need to remove it for space or prior to orthodontics. And some teeth are poorly positioned and need to be removed; a common example is the third molar or wisdom tooth.
How do I know if my wisdom teeth need to be removed?
Your dentist will make this recommendation based on your examination and radiographs, usually around age 17-22. Not all wisdom teeth have to be removed, in some cases there is lots of room and the wisdom tooth can come in and function normally. In other cases the wisdom tooth stays buried in bone and is unlikely to erupt, and in some cases the wisdom tooth never forms at all. The problem wisdom tooth is most commonly the one that comes part way into the mouth and stalls out. It is best to remove these teeth at a recommended time, and not wait until they have caused damage, or become infected at the worst possible time (on vacation, etc.).
How do you remove a tooth?
You may hear people talk about getting a tooth “pulled”. This is an unfortunate term, we don’t pull out teeth to remove them, if we did we might well damage the surrounding teeth, gums, and bone. If a tooth needs removal, we numb the area around it, and then “luxate” it, that is, we move the tooth from side to side until it is loose and then lift it out. Sometimes we will cut the tooth into two or more pieces to remove it safely, especially if it has several roots going different directions.
What can I expect after I have my tooth removed?
Every case is different, and after the tooth is removed your dentist will review with you what to expect. In general a small amount of discomfort is normal right when the freezing comes out, and some patients will take an ibuprofen or acetaminophen at that time. Bleeding or swelling are usually minimal, but again, your dentist can tell you what to expect with your case.
Do I need to replace my tooth once it is removed?
It depends. Some teeth are important for function or aesthetics, for example the first molar tooth is very important for chewing and taking the bite force to protect the other teeth from damage/loss. Some other teeth such as wisdom teeth are rarely replaced. Ask your dentist what the right treatment is for you.
What is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon?
A dental specialist with advanced training in jaw surgery including tooth removal is called an oral surgeon. Sometimes we will refer you to an oral surgeon if you have an unusually challenging case.