Sometimes, dentists can recommend certain types of treatments to patients without necessarily taking the time to explain why the treatment is required. This is especially important with people who suffer from dental phobia, as a broader explanation of the treatment involved can often help to put them more at ease.

This fact sheet is designed to give you a quick overview of the tooth extractions. It may answer a few of your questions. Much more importantly, however, it should arm you with the knowledge to be able to quiz your dentist, ask the right questions and get a clearer picture of what your future treatment may involve.

Why would I need a tooth extraction?

Essentially, there are three types of scenarios in which a tooth may require extraction:

Firstly, if the tooth is, plain and simply, beyond repair. This could mean that the tooth has suffered from serious decay or if it has been broken. Alternatively, it could be the gums around the tooth that have deteriorated, so that even if the tooth is repaired, the gums or bone around the tooth are not of the required quality to maintain a healthy tooth.

Secondly, teeth may not to be extracted if they are crooked. For example, wisdom teeth that develop later in life can often grow crookedly as they try to push past existing teeth. These crooked teeth can often be difficult to clean and can cause problems with biting and chewing, so dentists sometimes choose to extract them.

Finally, orthodontic treatment may involve extractions. The aim of orthodontic work is to realign and straighten teeth, so sometimes teeth will need to removed to create the space for the remaining teeth to grow into shape.

What is the extraction procedure like?

The procedure depends upon the type of tooth that needs to be extracted. The majority of extractions are done by dentists within the practice environment. Patients are given a local anaesthetic to ease the pain while the tooth is loosened and removed. More complicated extractions may require an oral surgeon rather than a dentist. This will usually include some types of wisdom teeth where the gum need to be cut away for the tooth to be removed.

What are the alternatives to tooth extraction?

Normally, extraction of teeth is a last resort because it can lead to additional complications. For example, once a tooth is removed, the other teeth will shift to compensate for the missing tooth. This can cause problems with oral health and hygiene. Therefore, most dentists will endeavour to avoid extractions unless there is no other alternative available.

If you are concerned about leaving unsightly gaps in your mouth when your teeth are removed, talk to your dentist about the different types of false teeth available. Many dentists will recommend an implant when you have had a tooth extracted anyway, as it will fill the gap and stop the remaining teeth from moving.

What questions should I ask my dentist?

If you are nervous about having your tooth extracted, it is important to express your concerns to your dentist. Most dentists are comfortable dealing with nervous patients. They can talk to you in more detail about how complex your extraction is, what sorts of anti-anxiety treatments they can use, or whether you could be sedated.

Wisdom teeth

We’ve all heard about wisdom teeth and heard stories about the pain they cause. As teenagers, we dread the thought of our wisdom teeth ‘coming through’ and every ache or pain in the jawbone is ascribed to this. We’ve all heard about people who’ve had to have their wisdom teeth out too, because they were causing so much pain. But how many of us understand exactly what wisdom teeth are and why they can cause us so much distress?

In this fact sheet, we’ll answer the questions about wisdom teeth: what are they, why do we need to have the extracted and what exactly does the procedure involve?

So what are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth are a certain type of tooth that develops and grows later in life – normally in our late teens or early twenties. The problem is that, sometimes, the growth of the other teeth that develop earlier in life means that there is no room left for wisdom teeth to come through. So what happens? They try to force their way through and this is why wisdom teeth can cause tooth pain and jaw ache.

Why do we need them extracted?

Not all wisdom teeth need to be extracted. If there is space in your mouth then many will grow through naturally. You may still feel some pain as they emerge, but there is no need to automatically assume that you will need full-scale oral surgery.

An initial visit to your dentist should help to allay any fears and decide the best course of action. In many cases, the pain caused by wisdom teeth will disappear as they develop. Alternatively, it may simply be caused by trapped food around the new tooth – regular mouthwash or getting your teeth cleaned by your dentist may be the answer. However, there are of course cases where wisdom teeth need to be removed. This could be because the wisdom teeth are impacted. The word ‘impacted’ is used to describe wisdom teeth which not allowed to come through properly and which therefore grow at an angle. Alternatively, teeth may need to be removed because they are already decayed. Wisdom teeth often suffer from rapid decay as they are more awkward to clean with regular brushing.

What does the procedure involve?

Normally, your dentist will explore other options (as mentioned above) prior to recommending a tooth extraction. If pain remains, however, your dentist will take x-rays of the affected area so that they can therefore ascertain how successfully the tooth will be able to emerge.

The next step in the procedure will depend on how straightforward your dentist believes the extraction will be. It may be possible to perform more straightforward extractions under a local anaesthetic within the dental practice. Alternatively, you may be referred to an oral surgeon who will perform the extraction in a hospital environment, while you are either under general anaesthetic or under sedation.

What questions should you ask your dentist?

When you are discussing wisdom teeth with your dentist, it is important to get an idea of the extent of the dental work required. As mentioned above, some wisdom teeth can be removed fairly routinely while others require more significant surgery.

The extent of the dental work required will affect your recovery time. The extraction of wisdom teeth can leave you with bruising, swelling and a sore jaw for a few days afterwards.