Tooth extraction, or the removal of a tooth, is a relatively common procedure for adults, even though their teeth are meant to be permanent. Here are a few of the reasons someone may need to get a tooth removed:

Read on to learn more about tooth extraction and what you need to do after this dental procedure.

How a tooth extraction is performed

You schedule a tooth extraction with your dentist or an oral surgeon.

At the procedure, your dentist injects you with a local anesthetic to numb the area and prevent you from experiencing pain, though you’ll still be aware of your surroundings.

If your child is having a tooth removed, or if you’re having more than one tooth removed, they may choose to use a strong general anesthetic. This means your child or you will sleep throughout the procedure.

For a simple extraction, your dentist will use a device called an elevator to rock the tooth back and forth until it becomes loose. They’ll then remove the tooth using dental forceps.

Molars or impacted teeth

If you’re getting a molar removed or if the tooth is impacted (meaning it sits beneath the gums), surgical extraction may be necessary.

In these cases, the surgeon will make an incision to cut away the gum and bone tissue that covers the tooth. Then, using forceps, they will rock the tooth back and forth until it breaks away.

If the tooth is especially difficult to extract, pieces of the tooth will be removed. More complex surgical extractions are likely to be performed under general anesthetic.

Once the tooth is removed, a blood clot will usually form in the socket. Your dentist or oral surgeon will pack it with a gauze pad to stop the bleeding. In some cases, a few stitches are also necessary.

Aftercare for a tooth extraction

Though aftercare may differ based on the type of extraction and location of your tooth, you can usually expect to heal in a matter of 7 to 10 days. It’s important to do what you can to keep the blood clot in place in the tooth socket. Dislodging it can cause what’s called dry socket, which can be painful.

There are a few things you can try to speed up healing time:

  • Take painkillers as prescribed.
  • Leave the initial gauze pad in place until about three to four hours after the procedure.
  • Apply an ice bag to the affected area immediately following the procedure, but only for 10 minutes at a time. Leaving ice packs on for too long can result in tissue damage.
  • Rest for 24 hours following the operation and limit your activity for the next couple of days.
  • To avoid dislodging the blood clot, don’t rinse, spit, or use a straw for 24 hours after the procedure.
  • After 24 hours, rinse your mouth with a salt solution, made with half a teaspoon of salt and 8 ounces warm water.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • When sleeping, prop your head up with pillows, as lying flat can prolong healing.
  • Continue brushing and flossing your teeth to prevent infection, though avoid the extraction site.

What foods you can eat after your tooth extraction

During the healing process, you’ll want to eat soft foods, such as:

  • soup
  • pudding
  • yogurt
  • applesauce

You can add smoothies to your diet, but you must eat them with a spoon. As your extraction site heals, you’ll be able to incorporate more solid foods into your diet, but it’s recommended to continue with this soft foods diet for a week after your extraction.

How to manage pain after a tooth extraction

You’ll most likely feel some discomfort, soreness, or pain after your extraction. It’s also normal to see some swelling in your face.

The painkillers you’ll get from your doctor will help reduce these symptoms. They may also recommend a number of over-the-counter medications.

If your discomfort doesn’t subside two or three days after the extraction, you’ll want to contact your dentist. If your pain suddenly worsens several days later, you’ll want to call your dentist immediately so they can rule out an infection.

Outlook

After a healing period of one to two weeks, you’ll most likely be able to go back to a regular diet. New bone and gum tissue will grow over the extraction site as well. However, having a missing tooth can cause teeth to shift, affecting your bite.

You may want to ask your doctor about replacing the extracted tooth to prevent this from happening. This can be done with an implant, fixed bridge, or denture.