Tooth Extraction - Costs and Recovery
A tooth extraction is one of the oldest known dental procedures. When a tooth becomes broken or deteriorates to a certain point, sometimes removing it is a better option than trying to save it. An extraction can be performed on virtually any patient, and it’s one of the most cost-effective dental procedures. A standard extraction is a simple procedure, but some teeth, such as those that are broken off at the gumline, will sometimes require more complex, surgical extractions. Extractions can also be performed to make room in the mouth for implants or dentures.
When Extraction Is Necessary
- When a broken tooth can’t be saved with a crown or root canal
- When baby teeth don’t fall out in time
- When a baby tooth blocks permanent teeth from coming in
- When a tooth needs replacement with an implant, bridge or denture
- When cancer drugs, radiation or other factors cause infected teeth
- Can remove a source of infection immediately
- Cost effective
- Can sometimes help teeth come in straighter (when baby teeth are pulled)
- Makes room for orthodontic treatments
Your dentist will take an X-ray of the area where the tooth will be extracted. If you’re having wisdom teeth removed, he’ll take an X-ray of your entire mouth and all of the teeth. This allows him to identify any problem areas and come up with the best strategy for extraction.
Having a tooth pulled can be classified as a simple extraction, in which one of your visible teeth are pulled, or a surgical extraction, which requires more work. A simple extraction will involve an injection of a numbing agent in the gums around the tooth. A surgical extraction may require both an injection and an intravenous anesthetic.
A simple extraction can be performed in a short time and by a general dentist. The tooth is loosened and raised with a tool called an elevator. Then the dentist moves it back and forth with forceps to remove it.
A surgical extraction is necessary when a tooth breaks off below the gumline or when it hasn’t grown through the gums yet (which sometimes happens with wisdom teeth). An oral surgeon or dentist will cut into the gums and may need to remove some bone as well. Sometimes the tooth will need to be broken into sections and removed. The procedure is more costly than a simple extraction and takes a longer time to heal.
Most dental insurance plans will cover a portion of a tooth extraction, as long as your dentist determines that it’s a necessary procedure. Extractions done for cosmetic reasons will generally not be covered. A simple extraction can generally be performed for $150 or less. A surgical extraction or having a wisdom tooth pulled can cost up to $650. You might be charged for an initial office visit and X-rays as well. If you require anesthesia for the extraction, expect to pay an additional fee of up to $400.
Read more about the cost of tooth extraction.
Your dentist may want to attempt a root canal and cap to try to save a tooth. While it’s a more expensive and lengthy procedure, requiring several stages, it’s almost always advantageous to try to save your natural tooth.
If you have a cold or flu within a week prior to a tooth extraction, you should notify your dentist. The type of anesthesia that is used may need to be changed, or the extraction may need to be rescheduled for a later date.
A condition called dry socket can happen in 3 to 4 percent of all extractions and in up to 30 percent of all extractions of impacted teeth. The bone where the tooth was extracted becomes exposed to air and food and starts to cause pain by about the third day after the operation. This can occur because the blood clot either doesn’t form properly or becomes dislodged by food. Smoking and taking birth control pills can also cause this condition. Medication and a special dressing are required to help the socket heal correctly.
Accidents that cause additional problems or injuries can sometimes happen during a tooth extraction. For example, a dentist could inadvertently crack an adjacent tooth or a filling during the operation. In elderly patients with weakened bone structures, the jaw bone can actually be broken during a tooth extraction.
In rare cases, if an upper back molar is removed, it can create a hole from the roof of the mouth into the sinus cavity. This can take several weeks to heal, or it may require an additional surgery.
Nerve damage is another uncommon risk during a tooth extraction. Sometimes a dentist will injure a nerve in the lower jaw, which can cause a numbing effect in the lips and chin. It can take months to heal, and in some cases, the damage is permanent.
For the first few days after an extraction, you’ll need to avoid doing anything that can dislodge the blood clot in the tooth socket. Drinking through a straw and rinsing your mouth vigorously should be avoided. You’ll be asked to rinse your mouth gently with a warm saltwater solution during the initial healing period, in order to keep the area clean. Ice packs can be applied to the face to help manage pain, and your dentist will let you know which over-the-counter pain medications you can take. Normal healing should take about two weeks.
Once the socket has healed, you shouldn’t require any additional care. You’ll probably have one follow-up visit with your dentist to make sure everything is healing properly. You can brush and floss teeth around the extraction area; this shouldn’t cause any additional discomfort.
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