How Painful is Tooth Removal?
The short answer is that it definitely can hurt to get a tooth extracted, but the good news is that there are multiple options available for pain management, both during and after the procedure. During a dental extraction, you will receive anesthesia, and after the procedure, you can use pain medication and other pain mitigation techniques to make recovery as comfortable as possible.
When you and your dentist or oral surgeon plan your dental extraction, you will discuss your preferences for anesthesia. If the extraction is complex, or if you are highly anxious about the procedure, the dentist may plan to use sedation anesthesia, though many extractions can successfully be completed using only local anesthesia. Local anesthesia is administered directly into the tissue surrounding the extraction site using a tiny needle, and the area is numbed with a topical solution before the injection. Usually, when these local anesthetics are used, patients, who are fully awake during the procedure, can still feel some pressure in their jaw and may feel the movement of the tooth, but these sensations aren’t accompanied by pain.
Some complex procedures may necessitate sedation anesthesia, and some patients simply prefer sedation anesthesia. Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is just one option. Nitrous oxide provides minimal sedation and is used to help patients relax while remaining conscious. Some dentists also use pills or tablets, like Halcion, to relax the patient before performing the extraction. With nitrous oxide and sedative pills, you will remain awake during the procedure, though you will have limited awareness and limited memory following the procedure. If you require or desire stronger sedation, dentists can use intravenous medication to suppress your consciousness until you are comfortable with the procedure. Local anesthesia is used in all procedures to numb the extraction site, and additional anesthesia can be used if needed. General anesthesia, in which the patient is fully unconscious, is used rarely and only when dictated by clinical needs. Additional monitoring of vital signs is necessary when general anesthesia is used, and it is reserved for highly specialized or complex procedures.
Following your dental extraction procedure, your dentist may recommend that you use over-the-counter medication to manage pain and discomfort. Many patients find relief with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If your procedure was complex or required additional surgery, you may receive a prescription for a pain medication with more of a kick. Dentists also recommend applying ice packs and warm compresses externally to relieve pain and swelling, as well as elevating the head when lying down and eating only soft, moderate-temperature foods while healing. Rinsing the mouth with warm saltwater can be soothing and is also beneficial in keeping the extraction sites free from bacteria. Most patients report some tenderness and discomfort at the site of the extraction, along with some tightness in the jaw, for no more than a few days. If pain lasts longer than three days, a dry socket may have formed at the extraction site. While painful, dry sockets can be prevented, and they can be treated when they develop, so if your extraction site hurts for too long, see your dentist promptly.