Prepare for a Tooth Extraction

I consider myself an expert on tooth extraction after having had all four of my wisdom teeth extracted on four separate occasions over the course of a decade. No, I haven’t had the misfortune of having a regular tooth pulled out and I don’t intend to let any of my teeth decay to the point where that is going to happen.

First off, if you eat healthy and exercise regularly, your body will be strong and better able to deal with the trauma of having a tooth pulled out. So it would help if in the months before you have a tooth extracted, you’ve been taking good care of yourself.

In the days before the tooth extraction, refrain from ingesting any blood thinners like aspirin or other medications. Take a look at your nutritional supplements. Some people say gingko biloba has a thinning effect on the blood. To be sure, check with your dentist ahead.

On the day of the extraction, have a big breakfast and eat some more about an hour before the procedure. You don’t want to eat too much or too close to the actual time, lest you throw up in the chair. Be full but not stuffed. This is just so you don’t starve after the surgery, because you will not be able to eat anything for about five hours afterwards.

You’ve had an x-ray of the area taken, right? Ask the dentist what exactly he’s going to do.  If he’s a professional, he won’t mind at all telling you the steps. He will likely spread something on your gums and wait a few minutes before using a needle to inject the anesthesia. Wait, wait, wait…. It will take a few minutes for the area to go numb.

Then, it’s show time. He’s not actually going to pull the tooth. I used to think that how well a tooth extraction went depended on the arm strength of the dentist. (My first time was with a newbie dentist who took an hour, and then she said she had to rest because her arm got tired.)

What is done is actually luxation. To luxate means to put out of joint or dislocate. The dentist uses an instrument called an elevator to loosen the tooth. The space in the bone is widened, and the tiny fibers attaching the tooth to the bone are broken. Once the tooth is free, it’s a matter of removing it with forceps.

In the case of my last two extractions (both upper, which are easier), it took less than a minute. Seriously. It’s the skill of the dentist and my luck in having my dental roots be conical in shape. If your tooth’s root is more spread out under the gum, or if your tooth is fractured to begin with, it will take much longer, and you may even be sent to an oral surgeon who will charge you five to six times more!!!

Okay, everything went well. You’ve been asked to rinse. The dentist places a roll of gauze over the wound where your tooth used to be. He gives you another roll to take with you so that you can replace it after thirty minutes. Lots of blood.

The point now is to have your blood form a clot over the area. Try to move as little as possible. Don’t yak-yak. Don’t engage in heart-pumping activity that will have your blood racing out of you. Stay calm and don’t move your jaw too much for at least a few hours.

For the rest of the day and even the next day if you can remember, don’t vigorously rinse your mouth with water! Just swish water around.  Don’t use a straw. Don’t suck in air. Don’t suck in your cheeks. Don’t suck on anything! That might dislodge any clot that’s forming.

It’s been my luck that I didn’t feel the need to ingest painkillers. I silently went back to work afterwards and woke up the following morning with no pain. (The exception was the first time, when I got a nasty bruise on my cheek and everyone was worried my boyfriend had hit me.) But you can take over-the-counter analgesics like Tylenol. If the pain is really bad, ask your dentist to phone in a prescription to the pharmacy.

What to eat? I’m a masochist, so I forbade myself any solid food for 24 hours. I know that’s extreme, but I didn’t want to risk agitating the open wound. The dentist will tell you that the chances of getting it infected is like 5% — the mouth has great regenerative powers, like when you burn your tongue and it recovers in a matter of hours — but I’d rather be safe than sorry.  Jello, ice cream, yogurt, juices, smoothies that are really smooth and have no chunks in them…  Even for a week afterwards, I concentrated on eating on one side of my mouth, and nothing hard.

Like I said, if you normally take good care of yourself, and your body is nourished and strong, it can handle a tooth extraction very well and you don’t have to worry about complications. Good luck 🙂