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Why Would I Need A Tooth Extraction
You wake up in the morning with a dull ache in your jaws.
Perhaps, your teeth hurt when chewing on your food.
Pain and discomfort are the two most common signs that something might be wrong. When dental pain and discomfort become unbearable, your dentist may recommend treatment options designed to deal with the underlying issues at hand. These treatments can include everything from a root canal to having the offending tooth extracted.
Most people don’t like the thought of having a tooth pulled. The idea of having a piece of you, such as a tooth, removed can be unsettling. However, there are numerous reasons you might want to have a tooth removed.
First and foremost, if a tooth is decaying, removing the tooth might be the only way to stop the infection and eliminate the pain and discomfort. However, dental disease and decay are but one reason to have a tooth pulled.
Signs you might need a tooth pulled:
- Any dental pain or discomfort
- Dull ache in jaw
- Persistent oral pain
- Pain when biting or chewing
- Smelly breath (halitosis)
- Bad taste in mouth
- Effluence or discharge of pus
- Visible decay
- Visible shifting of teeth over time
- Visibly misshapen teeth
5 Reasons Tooth Extraction is Necessary
Diseased or decaying tooth
When a tooth becomes diseased or decayed, extraction may be the best treatment option.
Extracting a rotting tooth can stop the spread of infection, thereby eliminating any pain and discomfort.
Once the tooth is extracted, I highly recommend replacing the missing tooth. This can be accomplished with dental implants. Let me invite you to click here for a free online assessment that can help you determine the best option for your tooth replacement.
Sometimes teeth might develop in the wrong place or grow in the wrong direction. In this case, the offending tooth might become impacted. This means that the tooth is bumping up against adjacent teeth.
Impaction can cause many issues, including dental crowding, crooked teeth, jaw pain, oral discomfort, and other challenges. In the case of an impacted tooth, such as an impacted wisdom tooth, extracting the offending tooth might be the best way forward.
Whether as a result of unintentional trauma or simple genetics, many people have a tooth or two that doesn’t have the best appearance. These misshapen, so-called “ugly” teeth can be reshaped using many cosmetic dental treatments such as dental recontouring or porcelain veneers.
In some cases, a tooth may be so worn or misshapen that the best course of action is to have the tooth pulled and replaced with a more aesthetically pleasing prosthetic. You can often do this in one visit to Cutting Edge Periodontist.
Broken or loose tooth
A broken tooth or a loose tooth in its socket may need to be extracted and replaced.
Broken or loose teeth may be signs of underlying disease. Both broken and loose teeth are particularly susceptible to infection. Cracked or otherwise compromised dental enamel can allow bacteria and other disease-causing microbes to attach a tooth’s inner pulp.
Meanwhile, a loose tooth could mean a gap or disconnect between your gums and your tooth. Food debris and bacteria can become easily trapped in a loose socket resulting in infection and abscesses. In both cases, this should be checked by your dentist.
Tooth that has drifted out of place
While you might think your teeth are anchored in place, the truth is that they can actually move or drift around your mouth over time.
Dental drift can be caused by several factors, such as the normal growth and development of a child’s jaw, an impacted tooth, malocclusion, or edentulism.
Typically, dental drift can be fixed with corrective orthodontics, such as dental braces. However, in severe cases where a tooth has drifted far out of place, pulling out the lost tooth may be necessary.
What Happens If I Don’t Do A Tooth Extraction?
Removing a tooth out can seem scary. When your periodontist or dentist recommends a tooth extraction procedure, it is usually for several significant reasons.
In fact, most periodontists and dentists won’t resort to tooth extraction until all other alternatives are exhausted. In general, dental professionals will attempt to salvage a damaged or diseased tooth before extracting it. However, there are many situations in which a tooth extraction is unavoidable.
For some patients neglecting to follow up on a recommended tooth-extraction procedure can result in some unintended consequences.
Short-Term Consequences of Foregoing A Necessary Tooth Extraction
When your periodontist recommends having a tooth removed, it means that the tooth is beyond saving. This can be for several reasons.
For example, a tooth may be irreparably damaged and susceptible to infection. Or, your tooth may already be inhibited by a disease. In any case, the immediate consequences of foregoing a recommended tooth extraction procedure can include:
- Problems chewing, eating, speaking, or swallowing
- Dental and oral pain
- Rapid disease progression
- Natural tooth loss
- Periodontal (gum) damage
- Oral infection
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Oral bleeding
- Infectious discharge
- Cosmetic considerations
Long-Term Consequences of Foregoing A Necessary Tooth Extraction
The longer you wait to undergo a recommended tooth extraction procedure, the more severe the health consequences often become.
For example, a tooth that is infected beyond saving what is left in place may act as a disease conduit spreading the infection to other parts of your mouth or even other parts of your body. The long-term consequences of ignoring your doctor’s recommendations for tooth removal may include:
To Pull or Not To Pull
Sometimes you can’t avoid the surgical removal of a damaged or diseased tooth.
When extracting an offending tooth is the only option, make sure to schedule an appointment with a dental specialist, such as a periodontist. While pulling a tooth may sound simple, it is a surgical procedure that requires great precision and skill to complete successfully.
When Is A Surgical Tooth Extraction Needed?
The extraction and removal of teeth is a common procedure. Whether you are a young adult looking to get rid of pesky wisdom teeth, or an older adult looking for an implant replacement, tooth extraction procedures are incredibly common. In fact, we collectively pull out 10 million wisdom teeth a year.
Of course, the natural development of wisdom teeth, or third molars, is just one of many reasons you may want to have a tooth extracted. Almost everybody will experience an extraction procedure at some point in their lives due to disease, accidents, physiological developments, and natural aging take their toll on your teeth.
When Your Tooth Can’t Be Saved
Most dental professionals strive to save and salvage damaged teeth as much as possible. Oftentimes the first recommendation of a dentist is to prescribe treatments that do just that.
For example, a dentist will often recommend a root canal to combat a severely decayed tooth before resorting to extraction.
Similarly, most cosmetic dentists and periodontists will recommend the least invasive treatments that will get the job done regarding aesthetic concerns. However, sometimes dental extractions, whether for health or cosmetic reasons, can’t be avoided.
Let’s talk about the many various reasons someone might find it necessary to extract a tooth surgically.
10 Reasons to Remove a Tooth
There are many reasons someone might want to have a tooth removed from their mouth. Extraction and removal may be medically necessary for health reasons, such as when a tooth has irreparable decay. However, there are also many non-medical reasons to remove a tooth. For example, an impacted wisdom tooth that threatens to cause a malocclusion, or crooked teeth, may need to be preemptively extracted to avoid cosmetic or functional problems in the future. Finally, many people also choose to have a tooth removed for purely cosmetic reasons. An unshapely tooth, for example, can be removed and replaced with an aesthetically pleasing, artificial replica. Dental extractions don’t always neatly fall into these three categories. Furthermore, it is widespread for an extractive procedure to be medically necessary, preemptive, and designed to fulfill cosmetic considerations.
Here are 10 common reasons why a person might choose to extract their teeth surgically:
1. Severe tooth decay
Advanced tooth decay is one of the leading reasons for dental extractions.
Dental decay can occur for several reasons. The primary reason is the simple neglect of oral hygiene.
When bacteria are allowed to build up on dental surfaces in plaque, tartar, and calculus, dental decay is sure to follow—oral bacteria associated with decay release acidic byproducts that erode the hard outer surfaces of your teeth. Over time, this can lead to holes in your teeth that allow bacteria to attack the soft and vulnerable inner pulp.
Once an infection has taken hold inside your tooth, it may be too late to save it. Procedures such as root canals are designed to preserve as much of a decaying tooth as possible. However, in severe cases, a dental extraction may be medically necessary to cut off the infection before it can attack your gums or become sepsis.
2. Periodontal Disease
Like tooth decay, periodontal disease is typically the result of the bacterial build-up in the mouth.
Unlike tooth decay, however, periodontal disease occurs when bacteria attack the gums.
Periodontal disease is a progressive problem that advances over time, as you can see in the above illustration.
Most people may be familiar with periodontal disease in its early stages, during which it is often referred to as gingivitis. Over time, if gingivitis is left untreated, it will develop into advanced periodontal disease, also known as periodontitis.
3. Full-mouth dental implant therapy
There are many full-mouth replacement therapies on the market today. One of the most popular full-mouth treatments is All On 4 dental implants.
All On 4 dental implants are designed to replace all your teeth at once. However, to do so, patients may need to extract any existing teeth to proceed.
4. Impacted Wisdom Teeth
Professional opinion on the need to remove wisdom teeth preemptively has shifted over time. In the past, it was considered best practice to remove wisdom teeth in all adolescents whether or not there was any concern of impaction.
Today, however, that thinking has changed somewhat. Some oral surgeons and periodontists believe that it might be better in some cases to leave wisdom teeth in place if they are not causing any discomfort or are not impacted.
If you are considering wisdom teeth removal, consult with your dentist or periodontist to get a better idea of what to expect.
5. Extra teeth
The vast majority of adults have exactly 32 teeth in their mouth.
However, some people may have a small jaw that cannot accommodate all 32 teeth or have more teeth due to a genetic quirk.
In both cases, the extra teeth can cause dental crowding, malocclusion, a misaligned bite, and other issues that require correction.
When a patient has too many teeth, a dental extraction procedure might be the answer.
6. Unttractive teeth
There are many functional and health-related reasons for removing a tooth. However, there are also cosmetic reasons to have a tooth removed that are just as important.
Your smile is important.
That’s why some people choose to remove unsightly teeth, such as teeth that are misshapen or broken, and replace them with perfectly shaped implants. Implants can be made to look exactly like natural teeth and can dramatically enhance and improve a person’s smile.
7. Maloccluded Teeth
Malocclusion is the professional term for a bad bite or crooked teeth.
Typically, crooked teeth can be corrected with the use of orthodontics, such as dental braces. In some severe cases of malocclusion, it might be necessary to extract teeth that have drifted badly out of place.
8. Misaligned bite
The upper and lower arches of your mouth should fit together naturally and seamlessly. The way your jaws engage each other is known as your “bite.”
Not only is a seamless bite necessary for chewing and eating food, but an appropriate bite also allows you to enunciate, communicate with others effectively, and smile naturally. Misaligned bites, such as underbites and overbites, are commonly considered by many to be cosmetic concerns.
To correct misalignment, it is sometimes necessary to extract one or two teeth. This is particularly true for the correction of severe underbites in which the lower jaw may need to be surgically shortened.
9. Worn teeth
Our teeth suffer considerable wear and tear over time.
It is not uncommon for older adults to have teeth that have worn down. However, it’s not just the old and elderly who may suffer from worn teeth. Patients with bruxism, teeth grinding, or acid reflux may also display visible signs of dental wear.
Eventually, whether due to natural aging or conditions such as bruxism, dental wear can result in teeth that don’t look the best and also may not function as well as they should. To give worn teeth a new life, some people choose to extract their old teeth and replace them with new ones in dental implants.
10. Oral trauma or accidental damage
Sometimes surgical extractions may be made necessary as a result of an accidental blow to the mouth.
Oral trauma can result in damaged, broken, or crooked teeth. In severe cases, such as a car accident that results in trauma to the head, it may become medically necessary to remove teeth that have been pushed out of their sockets.
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Do Extracted Teeth Need To Be Replaced?
Missing teeth can be detrimental not only to an active and healthy lifestyle.
There are a variety of reasons for neglecting to replace missing teeth. For example, without dental insurance, the financial costs of teeth replacement may be a barrier. Others may wish to avoid the perceived hassle, inconvenience, or perceptions of visiting a periodontist.
Let’s look at why replacing missing teeth promptly is so important and how it could save you money, protect your health, and improve your social relationships.
Aesthetics: New Teeth New Smile
The most obvious consequence of edentulism (missing teeth) is the impact it will have on your smile and on your overall appearance. Many patients will have missing teeth replaced for that reason alone.
First impressions really do matter whether in business or in your personal life. As human beings, we are naturally drawn and attracted to a person’s smile.
Likewise, we will instantly notice when someone’s teeth are in bad shape.
According to a study commissioned by Invisalign®, the first thing 82 percent of people notice about others is their smile. The same study goes on to show that 92 percent of people would not date someone with undesirable oral characteristics. Replacing missing teeth might just help you land that new gig or a date with that person you’ve been eyeing.
The first thing 82% of people notice about others is their smile.
Social: Your Teeth Are A Part of Your Charm
Of course, your smile isn’t just there to look nice. Your smile and facial expressions generally play an important role in cueing others as to your emotions and intentions. That’s why people tend to be drawn to your smile. It is a part of our evolutionary biology to pay close attention to other human beings’ facial expressions and pay close attention to their teeth.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that missing teeth can be very distracting in conversation. While most of us understand that it is impolite to hyperfocus on the aesthetic qualities of others, as humans beings, it is sometimes unavoidable. Unfortunately, missing teeth can affect not only the way others view or interact with you in a social setting, but it can also result in low self-esteem.
Finally, our teeth play an important role in how we speak and enunciate words in conversation. Missing teeth can become a hindrance to communication, which can interfere with healthy social lives.
Financial: Replacing Teeth Saves Money
Replacing missing teeth with a permanent solution, such as All-On-4 dental implants or conventional dental implants, can be a major upfront investment. Depending on the number of teeth that need to be replaced, a patient might spend thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars for teeth replacement therapy.
While this may seem costly, it is important to view your smile as something worth investing in. Furthermore, replacing your teeth promptly with a permanent solution can actually save you money over the long term.
How is this the case?
Firstly, replacing missing teeth with permanent implants provides a higher quality of life that can be priceless. From improved self-esteem and self-confidence to better day-to-day functionality, new teeth provide a multitude of valuable benefits.
Secondly, replacing missing teeth sooner rather than later can preempt many damaging and costly health consequences of missing teeth for a long time. For example, edentulous patients who do not immediately replace a missing tooth might experience dental drift causing a cascading effect of dental problems down the road.
Edentulous patients also experience a phenomenon known as bone resorption, which results in the wasting away of your jaw bone. Over time, if left untreated, this wasting away of the jaw can make future dental treatments much more difficult, expensive, or even impossible.
Health: Replacing Teeth Protects Your Health
Bone resorption is a major problem that can affect people with missing teeth.
When a tooth is lost or extracted, the underlying jaw tissues become disconnected from the mouth. Your teeth transfer the forces of biting and chewing into the jaw through their dental roots in a healthy mouth.
The transfer of these forces stimulates the underlying jaw tissues and promotes jaw bone growth, density, and strength. However, when a tooth falls out or is extracted, that important link is broken. With no stimulating forces, the underlying bone tissues waste away and are reabsorbed into your body. From your body’s perspective, that tissue no longer serves a purpose. Unfortunately, this natural resorptive process can have enormous negative consequences for your health.
For example, patients with advanced bone resorption may have particularly small and brittle jaws and facial bones. Furthermore, this deterioration of bone tissues can put existing healthy teeth at risk, exacerbate periodontitis, and cause patients to display sagging facial skin. If left untreated, bone resorption can replace missing teeth with dental implants impossible as there is simply no bone material left to anchor to.
To avoid potential oral health issues, such as bone resorption and dental drift, it is important to replace missing teeth as soon as possible with a permanent solution, such as dental implants.
Implant-based treatments, including All On 4 dental implants, replace missing teeth in their entirety, including dental roots. Dental implants anchor directly into the hard tissues below, thereby acting as a replacement conduit for the transfer of stimulating forces.
Dental implants can mitigate or even reverse the process of bone resorption while also staving off other dental health concerns such as dental drift.
Root Canal vs. Dental Extraction
What’s the Difference?
When a cavity or dental infection is left untreated, it can spread and grow until it threatens to consume a tooth completely. Once an infection has progressed past a certain point, a simple dental filling procedure won’t work. Instead, patients have two important options to address an advanced dental infection: a root canal or a tooth extraction.
Both root canals and tooth extractions can be effective ways to treat a rotten tooth. However, to decide which procedure to go with, patients need to understand how the two treatments are different.
What is a Root Canal?
According to the American Association of Endodontists (AAE), a root canal is a dental procedure in which the inner pulp of a tooth is removed and sealed with filling.
Root canal procedures are extremely commonplace in the United States. Every year, 15 million root canal procedures are performed.
Root canal treatment is an often straightforward procedure to relieve dental pain and save your teeth. Patients typically need a root canal when there is inflammation or infection in the roots of a tooth.
During root canal treatment, a periodontist specializing in such treatment carefully removes the pulp inside the tooth, cleans, disinfects, and shapes the root canals, and places a filling to seal the space.
When Is a Root Canal Best?
A periodontist may recommend a root canal procedure when a patient’s tooth has become inflamed or infected. Root canals are often considered before tooth extraction. In general, the periodontist will try their best to salvage your natural tooth before resorting to removal.
However, in some circumstances, a root canal may not be the best option. When an infection has progressed or spread too far, there may be no choice but to resort to a more comprehensive alternative.
Root canals are most commonly recommended for dental infections that have reached the inner pulp but have not completely compromised the tooth’s structural integrity.
What Is a Dental Extraction?
A dental extraction, or exodontia, is the total removal of a tooth, including the visible crown and the underlying dental roots.
When Is a Dental Extraction Best?
There are numerous oral health as well as cosmetic reasons patients may opt to have a tooth removed. For example, every year, 10 million wisdom teeth are extracted from the mouths of 5 million patients.
Many of these third molar removal operations are done as a prophylactic. Doctors also recommend having a tooth extracted if the structural integrity of the tooth has been compromised. A crack in a tooth that extends below the gum line, for example, would necessitate a dental extraction.
Meanwhile, many patients opt to have their teeth removed due to aesthetic concerns. Misshapen, discolored, or damaged teeth are commonly removed and replaced with more visually appealing prosthetics.
5 BIG Differences Between a Root Canal & A Dental Extraction
In general, a dental extraction alone is far less costly than a root canal, which requires more time and a skilled hand. However, when considering the removal and replacement of a tooth with a dental implant, the cost of extraction is much higher.
Remember, dentists always recommend replacing a tooth that has been removed as soon as possible. Doing so helps to mitigate any long-term negative health consequences of toothlessness, such as bone resorption.
With the cost of replacement added into the mix, a root canal may actually be far less costly than a dental extraction procedure over the long term.
A dental extraction procedure is relatively simple and straightforward. The offending tooth is loosened using a dental tool known as an “elevator.” Then, the dentist or periodontist will “pull” or remove the tool with forceps.
A root canal is much more involved and, as a result, requires more time and attention from the periodontist.
A root canal therapy requires several steps:
- Drilling a hole
- Removing the inflamed pulp
- Shaping the canals
- Filling with gutta-percha
- Placing a protective dental crown.
3. Salvageable material
A root canal retains much of the exterior structure of a targeted tooth. While the inner pulp may be removed and some dental material during the shaping process, a large part of the natural tooth is retained and salvaged.
In comparison, a tooth extraction would totally remove a targeted tooth, including its roots.
A root canal can be compared to a total renovation and restoration of an old building. The builder may totally gut the edifice to prepare the old building for renovations. However, much of the exterior shell and structure is left in place.
In comparison, a dental extraction is more like a total demolition in which an old building is demolished and replaced with something completely new.
4. Follow-up therapy
A root canal is a two-appointment process.
The first appointment consists of the actual root canal therapy, which is finished with a temporary filling.
The second appointment consists of the removal of the temporary filling and the placement of a permanent crown.
Meanwhile, a tooth extraction can be completed in a single sitting. However, the dentist or periodontist will likely recommend extensive follow-up treatments such as the placement of dental implants.
For most patients, replacing extracted teeth is a must. As a result, the total time spent in the dentist’s chair may actually be much longer with a dental extraction procedure followed by a dental replacement procedure such as the insertion of dental implants.
Recovery from root canal therapy is relatively quick since most of the natural dental structure is left in place.
In comparison, the recovery period for a dental extraction procedure may be longer and more fraught.
Post-operative recovery from a dental extraction surgery relies heavily on the development than the dissolution of a blood clot at the site of the operation. Should the blood clot dissolve too early or become dislodged, patients may suffer a painful condition known as dry sockets.
Furthermore, once a patient has recovered from having a tooth pulled, they may have to undergo another operation and subsequent recovery period to replace their missing tooth.
There is an ideal time and place for both root canals and tooth extractions. Depending on your individual situation, you may find that either a root canal or a dental extraction may work best for you.
It is important to understand the pros and cons of both root canals and dental extractions to make the best decision on which treatment to choose.
Tooth Extraction Near Me
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That’s a lot of searches and clicks for a tooth extraction!
Maybe you didn’t search for “tooth extraction near me” to find us, but we are easy to get to if you are located in Burbank, Toluca Lake, Glendale, or the North Hollywood area. Call us to schedule an appointment at 310-362-3343 or complete the Request An Appointment form below.
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What To Expect After A Tooth Extraction
So You’ve Had A Tooth Pulled — Now What?
Pulling a tooth is a longer process than many people expect. While the actual extraction surgery occurs relatively quickly, patients should consider the important and necessary recovery period that follows. For most healthy patients, this recovery period typically lasts a few days. In fact, the first 24 hours immediately after surgery can make or break your entire operation.
During this healing and recovery period, your body will repair and restore your mouth. To facilitate your body’s natural healing process, you should carefully follow your periodontist’s or dental professional’s post-operative recommendations.
What to Expect After A Tooth Extraction
Immediately after your dental extraction surgery, the periodontist will place a gauze pad over the tooth socket. The gauze pad will help jumpstart the crucial recovery process.
The periodontist will tell you to bite down firmly on the gauze to hold it in place and aid in clot formation. For the gauze to function, you must change it as it absorbs saliva and blood. Keep the gauze in place for at least 4 hours after your surgery.
Following the gauze placement, your periodontist will send you home to recover.
Recovery typically takes a few days.
You will want to catch a ride home from a family member or trusted associate.
Due to anesthetics and sedatives during your tooth extraction, you will not be able to drive yourself home. We strongly discourage patients from attempting to drive or transport themselves home after their dental extraction. You will want to make arrangements to care for your children, pets, as well as yourself immediately following surgery.
At home, it is important to rest as much as possible. Resting will allow your body to heal as well as minimize movement of your head and mouth. The first 24 hours following surgery is a crucial time period in which patients must proceed cautiously.
During the first day, the blood clot is still fragile and can be easily dislodged. However, if the clot is accidentally dislodged or dissolves prematurely, a painful condition known as dry socket may result.
As you rest and recover, it is important to ice and elevate your mouth. Put an extra pillow under your head and apply an ice bag to your face to minimize swelling.
After 24 hours, you can gently rinse your mouth with a saline solution. Avoid spitting forcefully, rinsing forcefully, or sucking liquids through a straw.
Don’t smoke, vape, or drink alcohol. Both tobacco and alcohol irritate your gums, dry out your mouth, and can prolong your healing time.
When you are ready to eat food, stick to a soft food diet as much as possible. See my recommendations here. If you must chew, avoid chewing on the side of your mouth with the extraction site.
While you should continue to brush and floss your teeth, avoid brushing, poking, or scraping the site of the extraction wound.
The following tips can help minimize discomfort, reduce the risk of infection, and speed recovery.
5 Tips for After A Tooth Extraction
1. Mind the 24-hour rule
The first 24 hours of your recovery period are the most important.
During this time, the blood clot is just getting established. So do everything you can to avoid dislodging your blood clot. That means rest and avoid vigorous physical activity, and eating hard foods. Take a nap. Pet and cuddle with the dog.
You’ll also want to avoid spitting, rinsing, or sucking any liquids through a straw. Rest and take painkillers as prescribed by your periodontist to allow your body to heal.
2. Be gentle with your mouth.
Even after the initial 24 hours, it’s still important to avoid irritating your mouth.
Avoid poking or prodding the site of the wound with your tongue. Stick to soft foods — check out my recommendations here. When brushing, avoid brushing the site of the wound. Avoid moving strenuous activities.
3. Soft foods only
Soft foods, such as pudding, jellies, soft kinds of pasta, and other easy to chew foods, should be consumed during your recovery period. This prevents any unintentional scrapping or irritation of the extraction site. Check out my recommendations here.
4. Ice and elevate
During the first 24 hours, ice and elevate your mouth.
Icing 10 minutes at a time will help reduce swelling and speed up the recovery process. Meanwhile, elevating your head will p[revent blood from pooling in your mouth.
5. Don’t smoke, vape, or drink alcohol
Smoking tobacco, vaping, and drinking alcohol can wreak havoc on your mouth. All three substances irritate your gums and can actually exacerbate swelling, dry mouth, and other risky conditions that may delay or even sabotage your recovery.
What Is Dry Socket?
Preventing Dry Socket After Tooth Extraction
What is a dry socket?
How do I prevent dry sockets?
Despite dental extractions being a standard dental procedure, some postoperative complications can occur. Common issues that can arise after a tooth extraction is unexpected bleeding, swelling, or pain. Most of these issues heal after a period of a few days to a few weeks.
A challenging complication that affects thousands of patients each year is a condition known as alveolar osteitis, commonly referred to as “dry socket.”
What is dry socket?
Alveolar osteitis, or dry socket, is a troublesome condition that can occur in a small number of patients after an adult tooth is removed in which the underlying nerves become exposed.
Some patients fail to develop a protective blood clot at the site of the tooth extraction. Others may have a blood clot that dissolves or is accidentally dislodged.
In the former two cases, dentists and periodontists still do not entirely understand why blood clots sometimes fail to develop or dissolve prematurely. Meanwhile, accidental dislodgement is typically the result of a careless patient. In all three cases, the missing blood clot will delay healing and lead to a dry socket.
Without a protective blood clot, the underlying jaw bone and nerves can be exposed, leading to oral pain that radiates across your face. Meanwhile, food debris can also become trapped in the exposed socket allowing bacteria to flourish and infect the extraction site. When this occurs, inflammation can arise, adding to the overall pain and discomfort.
Is a blood clot important after a tooth extraction?
Blood clots naturally develop at the site of a wound. Clots help stop the bleeding and provide a protective layer that blocks the infiltration of bacteria and other unwanted germs.
After a tooth extraction, a blood clot should typically form in the empty tooth socket. The blood clot stops bleeding, prevents bacteria from entering the wound, and provides a temporary protective layer. However, when a blood clot is dislodged or fails to develop, a dry socket can arise.
Signs of Dry Socket
Dry socket signs and symptoms include:
- New or worsening pain 2 or 3 days after surgery.
- Unusually severe pain that over-the-counter painkillers can’t control.
- Pain that radiates from the site of your extraction to through the side of your face.
- Unexplained bad breath (halitosis).
- Bad taste in your mouth or the discharge of pus.
- Visible bone tissue in your empty socket.
How to Prevent Dry Socket
The best way to avoid dry sockets for most patients is to ensure that an existing blood clot remains undisturbed. For this reason, dental professionals strongly advise that all tooth extraction patients eat soft foods and avoid strenuous activities for a few days to a week after an extraction procedure.
It is also important to avoid picking at or irritating the site of the wound. This can be difficult for children who may have trouble avoiding the temptation to poke or pick at their socket.
Other risk factors associated with dry socket include:
- Using tobacco or alcohol
Tobacco and alcohol are known chemical irritants that dry out oral tissue and trigger or exacerbate dry sockets.
- Using tobacco or alcohol
- Using oral contraceptives
High estrogen levels associated with the use of oral contraceptives can delay healing and lead to dry sockets.
- Using oral contraceptives
- Poor oral hygiene
Failure to follow a doctor’s at-home care instruction post-operation and poor oral hygiene can directly result in a dry socket.
- Poor oral hygiene
- Previous dry socket
While the exact connection is unknown, patients who have experienced dry socket in the past are also highly susceptible to dry socket in the future. Therefore, these patients will want to be extra careful in following a periodontist’s postoperative care instructions.
- Previous dry socket
- Gum disease
Gum disease is characterized by inflammation of the gums as a result of bacterial action on gum tissues. Both inflammation and bacteria can trigger dry socket and should be dealt with before dental extraction.
When to contact your doctor about dry socket
Inflammation, bleeding, swelling, and pain are all expected after a dental extraction surgery. However, these symptoms should be controlled by prescription painkillers and at-home care per a doctor’s instructions.
Typically, both pain and swelling should subside dramatically after the first 24 hours and gradually disappear over the following days.
In contrast, dry socket pain and discomfort usually become noticeable after a few days since the extraction. If you notice increased swelling, bleeding, or pain well after the first few days, you should contact your dentist or periodontist immediately. The onset of new or worsening pain days after having a tooth pulled is a vital sign of a dry socket.
Do I have dry socket?
The only way to diagnose a dry socket is to see your dentist or periodontist.
First, the doctor may recommend an x-ray to rule out any other possible causes for your symptoms. Then, they will take your symptoms into account, along with an oral examination and diagnostic imaging data to arrive at a diagnosis.
Dry Socket Treatment
If you are diagnosed with a dry socket, there are several treatments your doctor may recommend. In addition, you can combine these treatments to form a regimen designed to mitigate or eliminate your dry socket.
Common treatments include:
1. Socket irrigation
It is crucial to start by flushing out any food debris that is trapped in an exposed socket. Trapped food debris often contributes to infection and pain.
2. Medicated dressing
Medicated gels, pastes, and dressings are sometimes placed in the socket to help soothe severe pain and jumpstart the healing process.
3. Prescription pain medication
Over-the-counter painkillers are often not sufficient to combat dry socket pain. In these situations, prescription medication may be recommended.
4. At-home self-care
At-home care plays a vital role in treating dry socket. Due to the nature of the condition, the doctor may provide instructions and equipment for at-home care. For example, most doctors recommend using a curved tip syringe to regularly rinse and flush out the socket with a saline solution at home.