Tooth Extraction – What is It and What Can You Expect?


When you were 6, losing a tooth was a rite of passage, achieved maybe by incessant tooth jiggling, biting into an apple, or tying a string around the tooth and giving it a tug. But as an adult, tooth loss is hardly cause for celebration, yet having a tooth pulled is sometimes necessary.

What is Tooth Extraction and What are the Reasons for Pulling Teeth?

So. You ask. What exactly is tooth extraction? Tooth extraction is the removal of a tooth from its socket in the bone. Although permanent teeth are meant to last a lifetime, there are a number of reasons why tooth extraction may be needed. A very common reason involves a tooth that is too badly damaged to be repaired, say from trauma or decay. Other common reasons include:

  • A Crowded Mouth – some people have extra teeth that block other teeth from coming in. Some people needing braces may need teeth extracted to create room for teeth being moved into place.
  • An Impacted Tooth – teeth that cannot or do not erupt fully through the gum can become infected or cause other problems to the mouth, jaw, and teeth. This is most commonly seen in wisdom teeth.
  • Infection – if tooth decay or damage extends to the pulp and root canal therapy cannot help or the infection is too severe, extraction may be necessary to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Risk of Infection – those with compromised immune systems (for example those receiving chemotherapy or having an organ transplant) cannot risk infection, even in a tooth. So if a tooth could become a source of infection, the tooth will need to be removed.
  • Periodontal (Gum) Disease – periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues and bones surrounding the teeth. Sometimes the infection causes loosening of the teeth, making it necessary to remove the tooth or teeth.
  • Radiation Treatment – some people receiving radiation treatment to the head and neck may need teeth removed from the field or radiation.

What to Expect With Tooth Extraction

During the procedure, your oral surgeon may use one of three types of anesthesia. The appropriate anesthesia will depend upon the complexity of the removal, and patient comfort level. Options include the following:

  • Local anesthesia
  • Sedation anesthesia
  • General anesthesia

Your oral surgeon will determine and discuss with you the type of anesthesia to be used and the reasons why. Patient safety and comfort is paramount. Regardless of the type of anesthesia used, all will ensure that you do not experience any pain or discomfort during the procedure.

How It’s Done

There are two types of extractions:

  • Simple Extraction – a simple extraction is performed on a tooth that can be seen in the mouth. The tooth is loosened with an instrument called an elevator, then an instrument called a forceps is used to remove the tooth.
  • Surgical Extraction – a surgical extraction is a more complex procedure and is used if a tooth may have broken off at the gum line or has not come through the gums yet. A small incision (cut) will be made in the gum. Sometimes it’s necessary to remove some of the bone around the tooth or to cut the tooth in half in order to remove it.

Once the tooth has been pulled, a blood clot usually forms in the socket. A gauze pad will be packed into the socket and have you bite down on it to help stop the bleeding. If the tooth removed was extracted, self-dissolving stitches may be used to close the gum edges over the extraction site.

After You’ve Had a Tooth Pulled

Following an extraction, you will be given detailed instructions on what to do and what to expect, and will go home to recover. Having a tooth taken out is surgery. You can expect some discomfort and swelling even after a simple extraction. Be sure to follow doctor’s orders and take painkillers as prescribed. Some things you can do to help minimize discomfort: place ice packs on your face to reduce swelling, limit activity, do not smoke, eat soft foods, prop your head up when lying down, keep the area clean to reduce risk of infection.

Risks and Complications

As with any procedure, there are risks and complications associated with tooth extraction. Dr. McGann and his team are experts are fully trained to deal with all aspects of preparing and performing surgery in office, and patient safety is their top priority. Beyond safety, Dr. McGann has available all the tools to make sure cases are performed to the highest standards. He and his team will go over each and every step of what you can expect for the procedure – before, during, and after.

At McGann Facial Design, we make patient safety a priority. Dr. McGann holds a California general anesthesia license and the State, as a matter of routine, periodically evaluates our facility for measures of safety. Our assistants undergo extensive anesthesia training and emergency medical protocols. Our office is resourced with all necessary medical equipment for an anesthesia emergency, and we are located across the street from Sharp Memorial Hospital. To learn more, please visit the Patient Safety section of our website. In short, we never compromise patient safety.

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