“It’s like pulling teeth!” The oft-heard colloquialism has instilled in us all the belief that getting a tooth pulled is difficult and painful. And while no one wants to have a tooth pulled, sometimes it’s a medical and dental necessity.

The good news is that modern medicine has made extracting teeth much less painful than it used to be. In fact, we do our best to keep you comfortable no matter what procedure you are undergoing at Sheehan Dental. We’ve created this page to answer some of the most frequent questions we get about tooth extractions but if you have other questions or concerns, we are always happy to hear from you directly!

What are the reasons a tooth might have to be extracted (pulled)?

Here are the most common reasons patients need to have teeth pulled:

Baby teeth do not fall out.

This is rare, but in some cases a child’s baby teeth do not fall out soon enough on their own. This can be problematic because the adult teeth may try to come in, causing misalignment and crowding.

Preparation for orthodontics.

Some teens and young adults who need to have their teeth straightened by braces or Invisalign first need to have teeth extracted because there are simply too many adult teeth in their mouth. If teeth are overcrowded, they won’t be able to straighten properly.

Wisdom tooth removal

While not everyone needs to have their wisdom teeth pulled and some people don’t need all of their wisdom teeth pulled, it’s pretty common these days for young adults to have a wisdom tooth or two extracted. The main reason wisdom teeth are pulled is because they are impacted, meaning, they can’t get above the gum line, usually because of overcrowding. Even if wisdom teeth are not painful or causing a problem, Dr. Sheehan may recommend getting them extracted because he can tell by the x-rays that they will cause a problem down the road. Having them pulled before they cause a problem is, in this case, good dentistry, because molars are very difficult to extract once the bone fully forms and hardens around them. This usually happens by the time young adults reach their late 20s.

Infection in the pulp of the tooth.

If a tooth has decayed to the point where the bacteria has reached the pulp – the center of the tooth – Dr. Sheehan will likely first attempt a root canal in order to save the tooth. However, if the root canal is not sufficient and the bacteria continues to spread, the tooth may ultimately need to be pulled in order to prevent the infection from spreading to the bones around the tooth, which can be a serious medical issues.

Risk of infection in immune-deficient patients.

If a patient who is undergoing chemotherapy or has a compromised immune system for another reason, even the risk of infection can be a dangerous situation. In this case, Dr. Sheehan may advise a preventative tooth extraction in order to lessen the possibility of an infection getting out of hand.

How much will it hurt to have my tooth pulled?

Gone are the days of extracting teeth without painkillers – that much we can all be thankful for. Today, getting a tooth extracted will likely be uncomfortable, but not painful, per se. Dr. Sheehan will carefully administer injections of painkillers into the gum and tissue surrounding the tooth that is going to be extracted. Once the area has been fully numbed, he will begin working. The injections pinch a little, but only for a second and usually only the first one or two injections pinch because after that, the area begins to numb.

Dr. Sheehan will carefully monitor your pain during a tooth extraction procedure. He will tell you to let him know if you start to feel pain at any point. If this happens, he will generally be able to give you more numbing medicine.

While you shouldn’t feel pain, you will still feel pressure. The process of extracting a tooth requires rocking the tooth back and forth in the socket and prying it – and sometimes literally pulling it – out. You will feel this movement and pressure but you shouldn’t experience much, if any, pain.

In some cases, if multiple teeth need to be pulled or, as is the case oftentimes with wisdom teeth, the teeth are severely impacted, oral surgery may be required and, in these cases, patients may be given general anesthesia. This means you will “sleep” through the procedure and not remember anything – no pain, no pressure, nothing.

How much will it hurt after the pain numbing injections from a tooth extraction wear off?

The extent of the discomfort after a tooth extraction has a lot to do with how difficult it was to pull the tooth and the patient’s ability to tolerate discomfort. Some patients are able to take one regular dose of over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen. Other patients will take over-the-counter painkillers for a day or two. In some cases, prescription painkillers may be prescribed.

But, there is no need for you to suffer after a tooth has been extracted. If you are feeling more pain than you can stand, you can always contact our offices to get advice and, if needed, a prescription, to help ease the pain.

How long until I can get back to normal after a tooth extraction?

For most tooth extractions, taking it easy for 24 hours will do the trick. If you’ve had multiple teeth pulled, impacted teeth extracted, or been under general anesthesia for the procedure, your recovery time may take a bit longer. Dr. Sheehan will go over these details with you carefully before the procedure so you know what to expect.

As far as eating goes, for the first 24 hours you should not drink from a straw because the suction needed to use a straw can increase the pressure in your mouth and cause the socket (the hole where the tooth used to be) to bleed more than is necessary. You can eat soft foods that do not need to be chewed: broth-only soup, yogurt, pudding, applesauce, etc. You will slowly be able to incorporate chewable foods back into your diet over the next few days.

Have more questions about tooth extraction? Feel free to give us a call at 708-888-2123 or send us an email at sheehandental@gmail.com.