Yes, getting a tooth pulled can hurt. However, your dentist will typically give you local anesthesia during the procedure to eliminate the pain.
Also, following the procedure, dentists usually recommend over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription pain medication to help you manage the pain.
Read on to learn about how pain is managed during and after tooth extraction, and what to expect during the procedure.
Based on your comfort level and the expected complexity of your extraction, your dentist or oral surgeon may use one or more types of anesthesia.
For local anesthesia, your dentist or oral surgeon will apply a numbing substance to your gums near the tooth that’s being extracted. Then they’ll administer a local anesthetic via one or more injections near the site of the extraction.
The anesthetic will not remove all sensation. You might feel movement and pressure, but you shouldn’t experience pain or sharpness. Local anesthesia is typically used for a simple extraction, and you’ll be awake during the procedure.
There are a few options for additional sedation. Nitrous oxide (or laughing gas) offers minimal sedation to help you relax during your procedure. Your dentist or oral surgeon could offer you conscious sedation through a pill or tablet that you take before the procedure.
With both of these options, you’ll still be fully awake but will feel more relaxed and drowsy. For more moderate sedation, your dentist or surgeon may recommend sedation medication through an intravenous (IV) line in your arm.
During the procedure, the sedation anesthesia will suppress your consciousness. You’ll have limited memory of the procedure. IV sedation offers a deeper level of sedation. In all cases, you’ll still be given local anesthesia to numb the pain at the extraction site.
Sedation anesthesia is used for more complicated extractions. The type of sedation depends on your dental anxiety and the complexity of the procedure.
General anesthesia is usually offered only in special situations. It’s administered by inhalation through your nose or by IV in your arm. Sometimes both are used at the same time.
With general anesthesia, you’ll lose consciousness and be fully asleep. During the extraction, your vital signs, such as breathing, blood pressure, and temperature, will be monitored. You shouldn’t experience pain or have any memory of the procedure.
You’ll most likely be given local anesthesia to help with postoperative discomfort.
Your dentist may recommend an OTC pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil), to help you manage postoperative discomfort.
If your extraction was complex or required surgery of the gums and bone, your dentist may prescribe a more powerful pain medication.
To assist in pain management, you may also be given postoperative self-care recommendations, such as:
- put an ice pack on your cheek
- prop your head up with a pillow when lying down
- eat soft, cool foods
- rinse your mouth with saltwater starting 1 day after the surgery
- use warm compresses
After administering the local anesthetic, your dentist or oral surgeon will most likely use a tool called an elevator to loosen the tooth in the gum. Then they’ll use forceps to hold on to the tooth and pull it from the gum.
You may feel pressure, but shouldn’t experience any pain. If you have pain, you can tell your dentist, and they’ll administer more local anesthetic to numb the area.
After administrating the local anesthetic, your doctor or oral surgeon will make an incision into your gum.
If bone is blocking access to the tooth’s root, they’ll remove it. Then they’ll remove the tooth, sometimes dividing it into sections for easier removal.
For both simple and surgical extractions, following the actual extraction, your dentist or oral surgeon will clean the site and may place sutures (stitches) to close the wound.
Finally, gauze is usually placed over the site to control bleeding and help a blood clot form. You’ll be instructed to bite on this gauze for 20–30 minutes after the extraction.
Pain following extraction
Although different people heal at different speeds, according to the Oral Health Foundation, you’ll most likely have tenderness and discomfort in the area of the extraction for a 1–3 days.
You may experience tightness and stiffness to your jaw and joint because of keeping your mouth open during the procedure.
If the pain persists or becomes more severe around day 3, you might have a dry socket.
Dry socket occurs when the blood clot in the extraction socket didn’t form or has been dislodged, and the bone of the socket walls becomes exposed.
Dry socket is typically treated with a medicated gel that your dentist places in the socket to cover up the socket.
Although there’s pain involved with tooth extraction, your dentist or oral surgeon can eliminate that pain with local anesthesia and sedation medications during extraction.
They’ll also recommend OTC or prescription medication to help you manage postoperative discomfort.
Although everybody heals from tooth extraction at a different rate, most people will have tenderness in the area that lasts only for a few days.