Although permanent teeth are designed to last throughout life, they could be extracted due to a number of reasons.
Extracting a tooth is usually the last resort, especially if the tooth cannot be saved or the patient cannot afford other procedures to save the tooth. After a tooth has been extracted, a hole is left behind which is the space that housed the missing tooth in the jaw bone.
The time it takes the hole to close depends on the tooth that was extracted and how traumatic the extraction was. This article discusses how long it takes for the hole to close up after tooth extraction.
Types Of Extraction
There are two types of extractions done in the dental clinic.
1. Simple or Intra-alveolar Extraction
This is a routine extraction that is done for the incisors, canines, premolars, the first and second molars.
2. Surgical or Trans-alveolar Extraction
This type of extraction is done for impacted teeth that are trapped in the jaw bone such as the wisdom teeth and sometimes the canines and incisors. This extraction may be quite traumatic and may require some degree of bone removal depending on how bad the impaction is.
How Long Does The Hole Take To Close?
The time it takes for a hole to fill up completely after a tooth extraction depends on if the extraction was difficult, the size of the tooth, and also the type of extraction. After a tooth extraction, the area is supposed to look a certain way. This signifies that the healing is going well and the hole filling up is also part of the healing process.
• If the tooth that was extracted was a small tooth such as a baby tooth or a tooth with one root such as the incisors, the hole should start to close up by the end of the first week. By the second week, you can start to eat comfortably on that side without any fear of food getting stuck in the hole.
• If a larger tooth was removed or a tooth with more than one root or multiple teeth along the same line were removed, the hole should start filling up by the third week but the indentation felt on the gum may still persist after some months before eventually smoothening out.
• For a wisdom tooth extraction, it takes about 6 weeks for the jaw bone and gum tissue to heal completely and close up. This may also differ if the tooth was impacted in the bone or gum. If the tooth was deeply buried inside the bone and required bone removal, the healing time may be prolonged. If gum tissue was stitched up after the extraction, the healing process is faster and the hole fills up much quicker.
• The soft tissue usually heals itself and the hole closes up to the point where food no longer gets trapped in it anymore in about 3 weeks.
• If the tooth was fractured during the extraction procedure and one or more roots were left in the socket, the hole will also take a longer time to close. The retained roots can also become a focus of infection.
• If bone grafting was done, the risk of post-operative complications is reduced and healing time speeds up.
• If you are on birth control pills that contain estrogen or progesterone or you are taking aspirin, these medications can affect the ability of the blood to clot or increase clotting time which, in turn, slows down the healing process.
• If there was an ongoing infection before the tooth was extracted, the hole takes a longer time to close up.
Tips To Speed Up Healing Time
These tips are also called post extraction or tooth extraction aftercare instructions.
a) Eat meals with lots of fruits and vegetables.
b) Avoid grainy foods like rice, foods with seeds like granola or hard foods so that they don’t get stuck in the extraction hole.
c) Do not blow, drink with a straw, suck or rinse your mouth vigorously as this action may dislodge the blood clot
d) Do not use an electric toothbrush.
e) Do not smoke or chew tobacco or take alcohol within 48 hours after the tooth extraction procedure.
f) Avoid chewing on the side of the extraction.
g) Warm water and salt baths should be done at least seven times a day starting 24 hours after the procedure.
h) If food gets stuck in the tooth hole, rinse gently with warm salt water. Don’t use your fingers, tongue or any object to poke into the extraction site.
i) Ensure that you take your prescribed analgesics and antibiotics as at when due. This will help reduce pain and prevent infection.
If you notice any increased pain, swelling or any other concerns about the extraction that was done, don’t hesitate to contact your dentist immediately.
Reasons For Tooth Extraction
Listed below are some of the reasons why a tooth is extracted
• It is relatively less expensive than other treatment like root canal treatment.
• Severely decayed or infected tooth.
• Extra teeth or malformed teeth
• Retained baby teeth
• Severe gum disease
• In preparation for orthodontic treatment (braces)
• Teeth in the fracture line in cases of jaw fracture.
• Teeth which cannot be restored by a root canal procedure.
• Fractured teeth
• Teeth that will affect the fit or appearance of dentures.
• An impacted wisdom tooth that is causing pain and infection.
• Cosmetic reasons
• Before or after head and neck radiation therapy
Complications Of Tooth Extraction
If the healing process does not go as it is supposed to, it could lead to the following complications.
1. Dry Socket
A condition that occurs about 2 to 3 days after the extraction. There is severe pain and it occurs when there is premature dislodging of the clot.
Trauma to the nerve during wisdom tooth extraction can cause numbness in your lips and chin for some months.
3. Secondary Infection
The extraction site can become secondarily infected and this is more common in patients with suppressed immunity in conditions such as HIV and uncontrolled diabetes mellitus.
The hole left behind after a tooth has been extracted is normal and usually closes up as the healing progresses. If you notice that the hole has not filled after about 6 weeks and it causes a lot of discomfort, a trip to your dentist’s office is very essential.
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