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Brad M. Freedman, DDS & Associates
4604-D Pinecrest Office Park Dr, Alexandria, VA 22312

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What to Expect With a Tooth Extraction

If you need a tooth extraction, you may be experiencing anxiety about it because you don’t know what to expect or why the dentist needs all those very sharp instruments and very noisy power tools. The medical term for your anxiety is odontophobia, and it means fear of the dentist and dental procedures. It afflicts more than 75 percent of adults, so don’t feel that you’re the only one who feels this way.

However, when you know why you need the procedure, what to expect during the extraction, and how long the healing process will take, you may feel less anxious about your dental procedure. When you have a broken, cracked, damaged, or loosened tooth, sometimes the only remedy is an extraction. Although dentists make every effort to save a natural tooth, sometimes an extraction is the only option, especially when the tooth has been badly damaged by disease or decay.

The first step in the extraction procedure is an x-ray, which will show the dentist the best method for extraction and indicate any potential complications that might arise. Your dentist will discuss sedation methods with you, and the two of you will determine your best option for dental sedation. Your dentist will need to know your medical history as well as any supplements and prescription medications that you take. Don’t be alarmed at disclosing your medical history and your medications. This is a normal disclosure and helps ensure the optimal outcome of your procedure.

If you develop a cold or nasal congestion or have nausea or vomiting during the week before your tooth extraction, be sure to notify your dentist’s office since you may need to postpone the procedure. It’s important to maintain open communication with your dentist so that you have the best outcome for your procedure.

What to Expect Before Your Tooth Extraction Procedure

Your dentist will specifically ask you about the following medical conditions:

  • Artificial or damaged heart valves
  • Bacterial endocarditis
  • Congenital heart defect
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Impaired immune system
  • Knee or hip replacements

Simple and Surgical Tooth Extractions

A simple tooth extraction involves removing a visible tooth from its socket in the gum. A surgical extraction involves removing an impacted – or non-visible – tooth from under the gum, and your dentist will make a small incision in the gum before removing the tooth. The incision will be closed with self-dissolving sutures, and you shouldn’t feel any pain. You may feel pressure during the extraction, but if you feel pinching or pain, let your dentist know right away. Both procedures require local anesthesia, but a surgical extraction may also require intravenous anesthesia. You should arrange for someone to drive you home from either type of procedure.

Aftercare Instructions Following a Tooth Extraction

After your tooth extraction is completed and stitched if applicable, your dentist will pack the site with gauze and request that you bite down firmly. This will help stop the bleeding and encourage clot formation. It may take up to three hours for a clot to form, so change the gauze as necessary. When you get home, it’s important to follow these aftercare guidelines:

  • Don’t do anything strenuous for 24 hours. Rest and take it easy.
  • Maintain firm pressure on the gauze and replace it as necessary.
  • Apply an ice pack to the outside of your jaw where the extraction occurred. Don’t apply ice directly to the site, however.
  • Keep your head elevated for 24 hours, even while you’re sleeping.
  • Avoid smoking, drinking through a straw, forcefully spitting, and rinsing your mouth for 24 hours.
  • After 24 hours, rinse your mouth with a solution of ½ teaspoon salt to eight ounces of water.
  • Continue to brush and floss your other teeth but avoid the site until it heals.
  • Eat a soft-food diet such as yogurt, soup, mashed potatoes, and applesauce.
  • Take pain medications as you need them and as directed by your dentist.

Some discomfort such as bleeding, swelling, and redness is to be expected with a tooth extraction, but it should dissipate rather than worsen. If you notice any of the following after four hours, then contact your dentist’s office:

  • Chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath
  • Severe bleeding, pain, or swelling
  • Chills, fever, signs of infection
  • Excessive discharge, redness, swelling
  • Vomiting or nausea

If you notice any of these, contact your dentist’s office without delay since they could be signs of a serious complication.

Eat only cold and soft foods for several days until the site begins to heal. Avoid smoking, drinking through a straw, and spitting so that you don’t dislodge the clot and have to start the healing process again. Usually, the healing will be completed within one to two weeks, and you can resume your normal lifestyle and activities as well as your regular oral hygiene regimen.

Debating Preemptive Wisdom Teeth Extractions

The wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars to appear, and onset is typically between the ages of 17 and 25 years. The wisdom teeth are located at the far back of the jaw behind the other teeth, and they’re on both the upper and lower jaws. However, there may not be enough room for another set of molars, and they may erupt crooked or not at all. They may also cause misalignment of the other teeth. Sometimes, wisdom teeth erupt straight and cause no issues with the other teeth.

Dentists are divided on the issue of wisdom teeth extraction. Some dentists prefer preemptive extraction of the wisdom teeth so that they don’t cause a problem. Others prefer to extract wisdom teeth only if there is a problem. Both sides have valid arguments for their views, but it’s up to the individual if they want to undergo four tooth extractions if it’s not absolutely necessary. The American Dental Association recommends wisdom teeth extraction for the following reasons:

  • Damage to surrounding teeth
  • Development of gum disease
  • Infection
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Decay
  • Cyst or tumor development

Reputable dentists are on both sides of the debate about wisdom teeth extraction, so you’re sure to find a Alexandria dentist whose views align with yours. If you don’t like the first opinion you get, then get a second opinion. However, the reasons some dentists advocate for preventive wisdom teeth extraction are:

  • Wisdom teeth can be diseased without showing any symptoms.
  • Removing teeth before they become problematic can sometimes be prudent.
  • Removing wisdom teeth when a person is younger can forestall some of the problems that develop when older adults have tooth extractions.

It’s important to find an affordable and caring Alexandria dentist who will objectively provide you with the pros and cons of this hotly debated topic. The important thing is to make an informed decision so that you have the best physical and oral health possible.

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Brad M. Freedman, DDS & Associates

4604-D Pinecrest Office Park Dr, Alexandria, VA 22312

(703) 940-1886

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