If you’re considering pulling out a tooth, then the procedure involved may be either a simple tooth extraction or a surgical tooth extraction. The main difference between these two procedures is the level of difficulty involved.
Simple tooth extractions are usually done on teeth that are visible in the mouth, have already erupted, and are easily accessible. Surgical tooth extractions, on the other hand, are more complex and involve the removal of teeth that are not easily accessible or visible.
Regardless of the procedure involved, there is always a risk of long-term side effects following tooth removal, that range from infections to tooth damage to adjacent teeth shifting towards the gap, which may affect your bite and cause a myriad of other jaw and oral issues.
Factors That Affect the Difficulty of Tooth Extraction
Tooth extraction can be a simple or complex procedure depending on several factors. The difficulty of the extraction can affect the long-term side effects a patient may experience.
Here are some factors that can affect the difficulty of tooth extraction:
Teeth in the front of the mouth are typically easier to extract than teeth in the back of the mouth. This is because molars in the back have multiple roots that may be curved or fused to the bone, making them more difficult to extract and increasing the risk of problems arising.
Teeth that are decayed, broken, or impacted may require a more intricate extraction process. The dentist may need to break the tooth into pieces to remove it or perform a surgical extraction, which involves cutting into the gum tissue. This also increases the risk of problems arising.
If the gum tissue is inflamed or infected, the extraction can be more difficult and may require more force to remove the tooth. This can cause damage to the surrounding bone and soft tissue.
Patient’s age and health
Older patients and those with medical conditions that affect bone density or healing, such as osteoporosis, may experience more complications during and after tooth extraction.
Potential side effects of simple tooth extractions
Simple tooth extractions are typically performed on visible teeth above the gum line, usually under a local anesthetic, but not necessarily with sedation or anti-anxiety medication.
Although simple extractions are generally considered safe and straightforward, and they cause minimal damage to gum tissue, there are several challenges associated with this procedure that can lead to long-term side effects:
1. Risk of tooth fracture
One of the main challenges of simple tooth extraction is the risk of fracturing the tooth during the extraction process. A tooth may become brittle due to a large filling or decay, making it more prone to breakage during extraction. If the tooth fractures, it may become more difficult to remove, and some parts of the tooth may be left behind, increasing the risk of infection and other complications.
2. Incomplete extraction
Another challenge of simple tooth removal is an incomplete extraction. In some cases, the tooth may break during the extraction, and some parts of the tooth may remain in the socket. This can lead to infection and other complications, as well as prolonged pain and discomfort.
3. Damage to adjacent teeth
During the extraction process, neighboring teeth may be damaged or loosened, especially if the tooth being extracted is located near the front of the mouth. This can result in long-term side effects, such as shifting of the adjacent teeth, which can cause bite problems and misalignment of the teeth.
Long-term side effects of surgical tooth extractions
Surgical extraction is typically performed on teeth that are not easily reached in the mouth, either because they are yet to fully erupt, or have broken off at the gum line.
These extractions involve multiple surgical procedures, such as bone removal, lifting and folding part of the gum tissue to reveal the tooth, or sectioning (breaking the tooth into sections). The procedure can be done with conscious sedation and/or local anesthesia, and usually involves a long recovery period.
Surgical tooth extractions are more complex procedures compared to simple tooth extractions and may pose additional challenges and risks. To begin with, this is a more invasive procedure that involves making an incision in the gum tissue to access the tooth root, which can result in more discomfort, swelling, and bleeding during and after the procedure.
Due to the more invasive nature of surgical extractions, the recovery time may be longer than with simple extractions, causing patients to experience more discomfort and swelling, and may need to take time off work or limit their activities for a few days or more.
Owing to the factors above, the possible long-term side effects associated with surgical tooth extractions tend to be more serious than for simple extractions. They include:
1. Risk of bone damage and subsequent bone loss
The process of removing the tooth root during surgical extraction may involve drilling or cutting into the jawbone. This can increase the risk of bone damage, which may lead to longer healing times or require additional surgical interventions, such as bone grafting.
If no interventions are made, tooth extraction can lead to bone loss in the jawbone, owing to the resorption of the bone in that area over time. This can cause changes in the shape and structure of the jawbone, which can affect the fit of dentures or cause issues with chewing and speech. Over time, the bone may become weaker, and adjacent teeth can shift, leading to misalignment of the teeth.
2. Nerve damage
Nerve damage is rare but can occur during tooth extraction, particularly if the tooth is impacted or if the extraction is a surgical extraction.
Nerve damage can occur due to trauma to the nerves during the extraction, which can result in numbness, tingling, or pain in the mouth, lips, tongue, or chin. While this is rare, it can be a concern for some patients. Nerve damage can last for days, weeks, or months depending on the severity of the injury.
In some cases, nerve damage can be permanent, resulting in long-term numbness or tingling in the affected areas. However, this is uncommon and most nerve damage is temporary and resolves on its own within a few weeks or months.
To minimize the risk of nerve damage during tooth extraction, it is important to choose an experienced and qualified dental professional. Patients should also inform their dentist about any medical conditions or medications they are taking that may increase the risk of complications during the procedure.
If nerve damage is suspected, patients should contact their dentist immediately for further evaluation and treatment.
3. TMJ and Bite problems
After tooth extraction, the bite can change, as adjacent teeth may shift or tilt to fill the gap left by the extracted tooth. This can cause problems with proper alignment and bite, leading to discomfort or difficulty chewing, biting, and speaking. This can cause strain on the remaining teeth, and may eventually lead to the development of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).
4. Speech problems
If a tooth extraction affects the front teeth, it can affect the way that certain sounds are pronounced. This can lead to speech problems and social embarrassment. A speech therapist may be needed to help with retraining the muscles involved in speaking.
5. Self-esteem issues
Missing teeth can affect a person’s self-esteem and confidence if the perceive that their smile is not appealing. This can lead to social anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. So you may need to consider tooth replacement options, like partial dentures, dental bridge, or dental implants to restore the aesthetic of your smile.
6. Increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease
Tooth extraction can lead to other dental problems, such as tooth decay, gum disease, and infection, especially if the extraction site is not properly cared for, or if you don’t brush and floss properly due to fear of causing irritation. It’s important that you follow your dentist’s instructions for aftercare and cleaning your mouth after tooth extraction.
Prevention and management of long-term side effects
In summary, while tooth extraction is a routine procedure, there are potential challenges that can lead to long-term side effects. By understanding them, you can take certain steps to prevent and manage them, and make informed decisions about your dental care to minimize the impact of tooth extraction on your oral health.
These step of aftercare include:
- Proper postoperative care, such as rest and following the dentist’s instructions
- Pain management techniques, such as using ice packs or over-the-counter pain medications
- Regular dental checkups and cleanings to prevent decay and gum disease
- Seeking prompt treatment for any issues that arise after the extraction, such as infection or TMJ disorders
It is important to discuss the benefits, disadvantages, and potential side effects of tooth extraction with your dentist or oral surgeon to determine the best treatment plan for your individual needs.