The removal of a tooth, also known as an extraction, is a procedure conducted by a dentist that will see a whole tooth and its roots completely removed from your mouth. Often a last resort after failed treatment or injury, the removal of a tooth will leave a gap in the teeth that can then be filled by a number of artificial substitutes.

Reasons for extraction

There are a number of reasons why you may require an extraction, including:
Injury – If you have experienced facial impact that’s resulted in a jaw injury or tooth damage then you may require an extraction in order to aid recovery.
Lack of space – Wisdom teeth begin growing through from around 17 years onwards, but often there isn’t enough space in the mouth to accommodate them. If this is the case, the new teeth will have to be removed in order to prevent infection. Extraction may also be required to make space before the use of braces.
Tooth decay and infection – Some teeth may require extraction following decay or the onset of infection. In both cases, alternative options may be considered beforehand, but removal will be necessary if infection or disease is likely to spread to surrounding teeth.

The extraction process

Before the treatment begins, your dentist will need to take an x-ray to establish the position of the root to assess the appropriate method of removing the tooth. Many extractions will require the widening of the socket that holds the tooth, separating the tissue and bone that holds the tooth. Once the tooth is loosened, it will then be removed completely. However, if the tooth has deep roots your dentist may instead decide to cut through the gums and removed some of the bone in order to reach the tooth.
The procedure will take place under local anaesthetic, which will keep you awake during the treatment while blocking the pain. However, if the tooth will be particularly challenging your dentist may recommend general anaesthetic.

Extraction aftercare

You may experience some swelling or throbbing for a few days after the extraction but the pain should disappear quickly. After the procedure, your dentist may provide antibiotics or painkillers to help reduce the discomfort.

Artificial substitutes

After the removal, you may prefer to have the gap filled with an artificial substitute. There are a number of options available, although some may only be appropriate in certain circumstances.
Partial dentures provide a removal substitute and can be custom-made to ensure a comfortable fit. However, dentures require maintenance and you may require six months of healing time prior to the fitting.
A bridge is a permanent substitute that allows the use of a crown by fixing on the adjacent teeth. This prevents the teeth from leaning into the gap and creates the impression of a full set of teeth.
A dental implant is the closest alternative to a natural tooth. During the procedure, an artificial root is inserted into the gum, before a crown is placed on top. The implant then has the same strength and life-span of a natural tooth but an temporary substitute may be required after the insertion of the artificial root if the gum requires time to heal.