In a perfect world, tooth extractions would be unnecessary. We would all be born with straight, properly aligned teeth, and we would never have accidents that cause mouth or jaw injuries.
Instead, however, Americans make an estimated 2 million visits to hospital emergency rooms for dental pain each year.
The inconvenient truth is that no matter how careful or vigilant you are in your at-home hygiene care, cavities, infections, and trauma can and do happen, sometimes creating a dental emergency.
Take a moment as our own Dr. Meriem Boukadoum at 54th Street Dental unpacks the issue of emergency dental extractions and what to expect if you should ever need one.
Tooth extraction explained
A central focus of dentistry is to preserve or restore your natural teeth as part of maintaining good oral health. One exception, however, is having your wisdom teeth extracted. In other cases, emergencies arise that lead to tooth extraction.
A simple extraction is a straightforward tooth removal procedure and occurs when the tooth is viable in your gums.
In a simple extraction, Dr. Boukadoum administers a local anesthetic to keep you comfortable. Using a tool called an elevator, she loosens the tooth and then switches to dental forceps to firmly grasp and pull out the tooth.
In contrast, your dental provider or qualified oral surgeon performs surgical extractions either when the tooth is damaged and has broken off at the gumline, or it has not fully emerged from the gumline — an impacted tooth.
In either case, the “grab and go” method of a simple extraction isn’t possible, so Dr. Boukadoum needs to use a scalpel to cut a small incision in your gum to gain better access to the tooth.
Depending on the complexity of your extraction, Dr. Boukadoum may administer a stronger general anesthetic that allows you to sleep through the procedure. We at 54th Street Dental also offer nitrous oxide to help patients relax if they’re fearful or particularly nervous.
By appointment versus emergency extractions
Emergency dental extractions are urgent situations that require immediate attention in contrast to circumstances where the procedure is planned in advance.
Emergency extractions typically fall within two scenarios — an unresolved problem that has spiraled into a dental infection, or an impact injury resulting from trauma.
Untreated cavities and gum disease
An untreated cavity can result in severe tooth decay that can’t be restored by a crown, filling or even a root canal. Similarly, gum disease is a progressive condition that can intensify to advanced periodontitis.
If this happens, the connective gum tissue becomes so damaged that it can no longer hold your tooth in place.
Knocked out or broken tooth
You might also need an emergency dental extraction if trauma from a sports injury, car accident or trip and fall results in a knocked out tooth that can’t be reinserted or has broken at the gumline.
Dental infections from bacteria
While cavities, gum disease and trauma may seem like completely unrelated oral health issues, the one thing they have in common is the potential of triggering a dental infection, such as an abscess.
An abscess results from trauma, decay or gum disease which allows bacteria to breach the ordinarily resilient outer layers of your teeth.
A dental abscess is serious and must be addressed to keep the infection from spreading to your jaw, the soft tissues of your face and neck, or even to other parts of your body.
In severe cases, the only way to prevent the infection from spreading is for your dental provider to perform an emergency dental extraction. After the extraction, your body can kick into healing mode and restore your oral health.
Allow a week or so to recover
After your extraction, your dental provider sends you home with post-procedure instructions. Plan to take it easy for a few days and take special care to rest for the first 24 hours.
Remember to keep your head propped up when resting and be gentle around the extraction site when flossing and brushing your teeth.
Follow Dr. Boukadoum’s instructions for pain management and avoid things such as spitting, smoking, drinking through a straw or rinsing vigorously.
The goal of the majority of the post-procedure instructions is to allow a blood clot to form in the empty socket so the healing process progresses.
If the blood clot dissolves or gets dislodged, it can create a painful condition known as dry socket. This issue makes the exposed nerves and bone vulnerable to air and food debris.
If you’re experiencing a dental emergency, contact our office in the Midtown West neighborhood of New York City at 212-333-3200 right away for a same-day appointment. If it’s after hours, follow the prompts on our outgoing message so we can serve your urgent issue.