Dentist performs an emergency dental extraction on a sedated patient

When A Tooth Extraction Becomes an Emergency Procedure

It’s only natural to expect your teeth to last you a lifetime. But sometimes, things just don’t go according to plan.

Whether you have severe tooth decay or a bad injury, you may need some teeth to be pulled, especially if you are in an enormous amount of pain.

And although your dentist can sometimes repair the teeth with crowns or fillings, this isn’t always an option, and in a lot of cases, an emergency tooth extraction might be required.

But how do you know when to make an emergency trip to the dentist for an extraction?

What Is an Emergency Dental Extraction?

First, let’s take a look at what exactly the procedure is.

A dental extraction, in general, is when a dentist removes a tooth, typically due to disease, trauma or crowding.

Any dental problem, including an extraction, becomes an emergency procedure when it requires immediate treatment to stop bleeding, alleviate pain, or save the tooth.

Signs You Need an Emergency Extraction

Figuring out if what you are experiencing does in fact constitute a dental emergency can be difficult if you are not a dentist.

Here are some symptoms to look out for that could indicate that an emergency tooth extraction is needed:

  1. Severe tooth sensitivity or pain in your teeth and/or gums
  2. Loose teeth
  3. White fluid or pus in your mouth
  4. Darkening or discoloration of your teeth
  5. Painful swelling that makes it difficult for you to open your mouth

Common Reasons for Dental Extractions

Some of the most common reasons you may experience any of the above symptoms and require  extraction are:

Trauma to the Teeth

A traumatic injury—usually sports-related—is the most common reason for having to undergo an emergency dental extraction. Whether or not an extraction is needed is dependent on the type of injury along with the location and severity.

When such an injury occurs, your first step should be to see your dentist or oral surgeon who will then take an x-ray of the area. If they find that your tooth’s 10-year prognosis looks good, your dentist will likely try to save it. If the area is infected and other treatment options have been ineffective, an emergency tooth extraction may be the next step.

For instance, if you have a cracked front tooth that’s fractured to the gumline, the injury may not be treatable and there is a strong possibility that the tooth will need to be extracted.

Dental Abscess

A dental abscess is an infection in or around the tooth resulting in a pocket of pus. An abscess can occur in different parts of the tooth for varying reasons and is typically quite painful.

Because an abscess cannot heal on its own, as time goes on, your tooth can become more and more infected. When this happens, an emergency extraction may be necessary.

Periodontal Disease That Has Progressed

Unfortunately, the prognosis for saving a tooth in the case of advanced periodontal disease is not good for deep pockets of bone decay that are five millimeters or deeper. In this instance, your dentist will refer you to a periodontist for a consultation to determine the severity of your case. To alleviate pain from an abscess or further decay, an emergency extraction may be in order.

Severe Dental Caries

Dental Caries, also known as tooth decay or cavities, can become painful if it becomes enlarged and the nerve is exposed. When this happens, an extraction is not always the best course of action.

Your dentist may decide to perform a root canal if the soft tissue inside the tooth is inflamed or infected.

But when the tooth decay is severe, it can damage the tooth pulp beyond restoration. Left untreated, the tooth may be beyond saving, requiring an extraction.

Severe infection following a root canal or post root canal follow up treatment could also require extraction.

Orthodontic Treatment

Before beginning any orthodontic work, such as getting braces, an orthodontist may carry out an extraction on patients with a crowded jawline. In many instances, teeth are removed symmetrically in order to maintain the balance of the bite.

There are two main reasons for an extraction before orthodontic treatment commences:

  1. Improper alignment of teeth resulting from a small jawbone
  2. Teeth that are too big for the mouth

Regardless of the reason, the extraction must take place before any orthodontic treatment begins.

How Does an Emergency Tooth Extraction Work?

There are two main ways a dental professional might choose to extract a tooth.

Simple Extraction

If the tooth is visible above the gum line and can easily be removed with forceps, the procedure is called a simple extraction.

A simple tooth extraction involves a dentist removing a tooth that is visible in the mouth. Local anesthesia will be administered when you go through with such a procedure.

However, some dentists may administer anti-anxiety medication or use conscious sedation in certain cases.  The local anesthetic will take a few minutes to take effect, after which, your mouth will become numb. At this point, your dentist will then widen the tooth socket.

They will then move your tooth from side to side until it is loose enough for them to pull it out. It is common to feel slight pressure during the procedure; however, you should not be feeling an excessive amount of pain. If the procedure becomes painful, let your dentist know as soon as possible to prevent any further damage.

In most cases, over-the-counter pain medication is enough to help manage any pain after an extraction.

Surgical Extraction

If the procedure requires the removal of gum tissue or bone in order to extract the tooth, a surgical extraction will take place. This procedure is commonly used to remove wisdom teeth.

The surgical procedure will be carried out by an oral surgeon and involves the removal of teeth that are not visible in the mouth, either because they have broken off or not grown in at all. General anesthesia may be used when extracting a tooth surgically, and you may also receive prescription pain medication.

What to Expect After an Extraction

After you have an emergency dental extraction, it is common for your gums to bleed a little. You may also experience a bit of swelling and you might feel some slight pain. While the entire healing period is typically around one week, be sure to give your dentist a call if these symptoms have not subsidized after 24 hours. Try to stay away from hard foods and apply ice to the outside of your mouth to help with recovery.

At the end of the day, the only person that is truly qualified to determine whether or not you need an extraction is a dental professional.

So, if you are experiencing troubling symptoms and think you may have a dental emergency on your hands, visit your dentist immediately to assess the situation and proceed accordingly.

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