What is a tooth extraction?

A tooth extraction is an outpatient procedure to remove a tooth. A tooth extraction is also called pulling a tooth. A tooth extraction is done to treat overcrowded teeth or remove a tooth that is too severely decayed or damaged to save with a filling, root canal, or another procedure.

Extracting a tooth is generally considered safe, but there are risks and potential complications. It is only one method used to treat damaged or overcrowded teeth. Discuss all of your treatment options with your provider to understand which options are right for you.  

Types of tooth extractions

There are two general types of tooth extractions. They include:

  • Simple extractions remove teeth that you can see above your gums. General dentists generally perform simple extractions using local anesthesia and sometimes sedation. Simple extractions do not require the dentist to cut the gums and stitch them back up.
  • Surgical extractions remove teeth below the gum line, such as teeth that have broken off or teeth that have not completely emerged. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons and general dentists  perform surgical extractions using local anesthesia and sedation or general anesthesia.

Surgical tooth extractions involve cutting the gums, breaking up the tooth, and possibly removing bone near the tooth root. 

Other procedures that may be performed

Your provider may perform other procedures after a tooth extraction to place an artificial tooth. Leaving a space can lead to the loss of jawbone tissue and the shifting of other teeth. This can result in changes in facial structure and problems with biting, chewing and speaking. 

Treatments and restorations that provide artificial teeth include:

  • Dental bridges replace an extracted tooth by permanently attaching a false tooth to nearby natural teeth. A dental bridge is permanent or fixed. You cannot take it out of your mouth without help from your dentist.
  • Dental implants consist of a metal post inserted into your jawbone. The implant attaches to an abutment connector, and a permanent false tooth (crown) is fixed on the abutment. Dental implants are permanent or fixed. Sometimes removable dentures are attached to dental implants.
  • Dentures are removable devices made to replace missing teeth. Dentures may be partial or full and are sometimes attached to a dental implant.

Why is a tooth extracted? 

Your provider may recommend extracting a tooth for the following conditions:

  • Baby teeth that have not fallen out naturally
  • Impacted adult teeth that have not emerged above the gums. Impacted teeth, such as impacted wisdom teeth, can become infected and grow into and damage other teeth.
  • Overcrowded or crooked teeth that require tooth extraction as part of orthodontic treatment, such as braces  
  • Severely decayed or infected teeth that cannot be repaired and saved with other procedures, such as dental fillings or root canals

Who performs a tooth extraction?

The following providers extract teeth:

  • Endodontists specialize in treating diseases of the deep parts of your teeth including the pulp and roots.
  • General dentists prevent, diagnose and treat diseases and conditions of the teeth, gums, mouth, and associated structures of the jaw and face.
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgeons perform surgery on the teeth, jaw, gums and face.
  • Pediatric dentists specialize in caring for the dental needs of children and teens.
  • Periodontists specialize in treating gum disease (periodontitis) including procedures that regenerate bone and gum tissue lost due to gum disease. 

How is a tooth extracted?

Your tooth extraction will be performed in a medical or dental office or clinic. A surgeon or dentist will loosen your tooth then pull it out. Your provider will clean the empty space left by the extracted tooth. Patients often bite on gauze to keep pressure on the extraction site and stop the bleeding. You may also have stitches, as determined by your provider.

Types of anesthesia that may be used

The type of anesthesia you have depends on the position of the tooth and other factors. Your dentist or surgeon may use one or more of the following:&