What is it like to have a tooth extracted?

Image by wakefielddavid - CC-BY

Image by wakefielddavid - CC-BY

When a dentist removes a tooth, he or she generally administers a local anaesthetic then pulls the tooth out mechanically. Some practices may offer a general anaesthetic so that the whole procedure can be carried out while you are “asleep”, but in most countries this is uncommon because of the possible side-effects of the anaesthesia which can include death.

The local anaesthetic is given by injection to the gum. The dentist will usually bring the needle up from outside your view, because some people find the sight of it (and particularly its length) alarming. There is momentary pain while the local anaesthetic is being injected. This is sometimes described as being “just like a scratch” but really it’s a little more intense than that. Stay calm, breathe normally, and it will be over in a few seconds.

It then takes around five minutes for the area to become fully numb. The dentist will test for the absence of pain, and if necessary will administer a top-up of local anaesthetic.

After the surrounding area has lost all sensation, it’s time to pull the tooth. The dentist has an arsenal of tools available, two of which are the elevator and the forceps. The elevator is roughly the shape of a screwdriver, and is used to lever the tooth upwards. The forceps are like a pair of adjustable pliers, with the head shaped to grip the tooth.

The dentist uses force to pull the tooth. Because of the anaesthesia, you will feel no pain. But if the tooth is firmly embedded you will feel some pulling, and perhaps some rocking as the dentist loosens the tooth. There can also be a sensation of vibration or scraping as the tooth is dragged out.

And then it’s over! Do ask your dentist if you can keep the tooth as a memento. In particular, a molar (tricuspid) that has been extract with its roots intact looks quite spectacular.

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