What are the side effects of pulling a tooth?

Are you dealing with some discomfort because of an impacted wisdom tooth? Maybe you have a cavity that’s affecting the pulp center of your tooth and won’t respond to a root canal procedure. Or perhaps one of your teeth has broken at or near the gum line and you’re having trouble chewing and speaking. By removing the problem—your painful tooth—you take away the source of your discomfort, so you can enjoy a much better quality of life. However, when it comes to tooth extractions, the long-term benefit of pain relief comes with some short term side effects.

1. Pain and Swelling

Most people think of tooth extractions as a painful procedure where a dentist wrestles with a tooth using sharp tools in order to “pull” it out. But that’s not really what happens. Normally, tooth extractions are a painless procedure. You’re completely numb at the site of extraction, so the only thing you’ll feel is some pressure as your dentist nudges your tooth to loosen the ligaments. You may feel pain after the anesthesia wears off, but normally this discomfort is easily managed with over-the-counter painkillers and should ease after a few days. Some patients may also experience swelling after tooth extractions. Placing an ice pack to the outside of the face can help manage this side effect.

2. Infection

Another possible side effect following tooth extractions is the development of a dental infection. This can happen when bacteria infects the gum line around the exposed socket within two or three days of the extraction, causing swelling, tenderness, and redness in the gums, neck, or jaw. Other signs of infection include bad breath that doesn’t go away after brushing, a fever over 101, increased tooth sensitivity, and a sour or bitter taste even after swishing salty water. If you experience these symptoms, let your dentist know right away—the earlier we catch an infection, the easier it is to treat and the less likely it will develop into anything more serious.

3. More Space

Sometimes the jaw is simply not large enough to fit all your teeth. As your permanent teeth grow in (which are often bigger in size than milk teeth), your jaw can literally run out of space. Other times, permanent teeth don’t erupt properly because of an over-retained baby tooth that loosened but then tightened back into the gums. Overcrowding is another reason teeth shift or erupt into unusual positions, leading to bite problems that can impact your overall health. Strategically extracting one or two teeth frees up space in your mouth and can allow aligners to move the rest back into position using constant, gentle pressure.

4. Bleeding

Bleeding after tooth extractions is normal, but this usually stops 24 hours after the extraction. Until then, a little blood oozing from the extraction site should not scare you. However, if you have a blood clotting disorder or take medications that slow down clotting, you may experience more bleeding than normal. Be sure to let Dr. Monroe know about your condition before the procedure so he can offer after-care instructions tailored to your unique situation.

5. Nerve Injury

Nerve injury is rare, but it’s possible. The removal of wisdom teeth may cause damage to the trigeminal nerve—a cranial nerve responsible for sensation in the face, as well as for functions such as chewing and biting. Injury to this nerve may cause pain, lip numbness, or a tingling sensation in the teeth and gums. The good news is that trigeminal injuries are usually temporary (lasting two weeks to a couple of months) because the nerve undergoes spontaneous regeneration. However, before it completely heals, you may find daily activities, such as chewing and talking, difficult.

6. Improved Taste

A recent study suggests that people who have received wisdom tooth extractions in the past experience, on average, a 3% to 10% improvement in their ability to detect key flavors—salt, sugar, bitter, and sour—than patients who still have their wisdom teeth. Why this happens still remains a mystery, though one theory suggests that nerve damage during wisdom tooth extraction improves whole-mouth sensitivity and, in some cases, triggers a type of oral hypersensitivity.

With today’s modern dental procedures and follow-up care, getting a tooth pulled is a completely safe and painless procedure. Dr. Monroe will discuss with you any possible tooth removal complications as well as provide recommendations on how to reduce risk. If you’re not ready to have your tooth pulled just yet, that’s alright too. Feel free to call us to ask about anything that’s on your mind regarding tooth removal. We’re happy to answer all your questions.