Having a tooth removed (tooth extraction) is the last thing most people – and in fact, most dentists – want to do. Keeping your natural teeth in place for as long as possible is the goal of most dentists, as it provides the best overall oral health possible.
Unfortunately, sometimes it’s simply not possible to keep our teeth forever. There are many reasons teeth may need to be extracted, and sometimes it’s important to have them replaced to prevent further issues.
Here are the top reasons you may need to have a tooth extracted.
Crowding is when teeth start to overlap each other. This is typically caused when someone’s jaw isn’t quite big enough to fit their teeth, or there were problems when the permanent teeth were erupting.
Sometimes crowding can be fixed through orthodontics. In severe cases, it’s necessary to extract one or more teeth to allow enough room for all the other teeth to be able to move into a better position.
Most adults have 32 teeth, but some people are born with one or more extras. Sometimes this results in crowding, but occasionally it results in a tooth erupting through the gum in odd places.
Gum disease is one of the most common illnesses in the world. If left untreated, it can advance to a condition known as periodontitis. This is when the bacteria starts to attack the bone and support structures around the tooth root. When this gets too advanced, the tooth may become loose, or become infected internally.
A tooth that’s infected internally can sometimes be saved by a root canal treatment, but this is not always the case. Even a tooth that’s been treated with root canal can, in some circumstances, become reinfected.
After a point, it’s simply the better option to extract the tooth than to continue trying to save it through cleaning and treatment.
An impacted tooth, particularly a wisdom tooth, is typically extracted. Impaction occurs when a tooth either doesn’t have enough room to erupt from the gum, or has tipped sideways in the jaw and is attempting to erupt into an adjacent tooth. This can cause severe pain and increase the risk of infection around the impacted tooth, so removal is ideal.
A tooth that’s been severely cracked or broken can sometimes be saved through the use of restorative treatments like veneers and crowns. In other causes, the damage is too great and it’s more optimal to remove the tooth completely.
Preparation for Dentures or Other Restorations
In very rare situations, a dentist will remove one or more healthy teeth to prepare a jaw for a full set of dentures. If there are only one or two teeth left in the jaw, for example, it’s better to remove them and replace all the teeth with the denture, than to try and design the denture around the few remaining teeth.
Tooth Extraction Process
A tooth extraction is a fairly simple, quick procedure in most cases. Using local anesthetic, the dentist dislodges the tooth and then pulls it free of the gum. Some basic after-care instructions are provided, and you’re allowed to go to work or school the next day.
An impacted tooth can be a bit trickier. The gum needs to be opened and a small amount of bone removed to gain access to the tooth. The tooth is broken and extracted, and the whole site is sutured shut. Recovery takes a little longer, but only a few days.
Why You Should Replace Missing Teeth
The most obvious reason for someone to replace a missing tooth is aesthetics. Most people would prefer to have a mouth full of teeth, than to have obvious gaps.
However there is good medical reason to replace missing teeth. The cells of our jaws are constantly growing and being replaced every few years, like the cells in every part of our bodies. This means that over time their shape can subtly change. When a tooth is extracted, it leaves a gap in the jawbone that used to be filled with the tooth root. Without that root in place, the jawbone will close the gap. The can also lead to teeth on either side of the extracted tooth tipping in to the gap.
To prevent this happening, there are several ways to replace a missing tooth.
The gold standard is with a dental implant. A dental implant is a titanium screw that acts like a replacement tooth root. It’s inserted into the jaw where the root used to be, and a crown is placed on top. In this way, a single tooth can be replaced from the root up.
Dental implants can also be used to support a bridge. A bridge is a row of dental crowns fused together that “bridge” a gap between one tooth and another. A single implant can support a bridge of two or even three crowns, allowing a dentist to replace that many teeth on a single root.
Traditional dental bridges are also available that don’t use dental implants. Instead, the bridge is supported with crowns that fit over healthy teeth on either side of the gap.
Replacing missing teeth maintains not just your aesthetics, but the functionality of your jaw for many years to come.