When you were six, losing a tooth was a rite of passage, perhaps achieved by incessant tooth jiggling, biting into a crisp apple or tying a string around the tooth and giving it a pull. As an adult, tooth loss is hardly cause for celebration, yet having a tooth out is sometimes necessary.
Dentists and oral surgeons (dentists with special training to perform surgery) perform tooth extractions. Before removing the tooth, your dentist will give you an injection of a local anaesthetic (or pain medicine) to numb the area where the tooth will be removed.
If the tooth is impacted, the dentist will cut away gum and bone tissue that cover the tooth and then, using forceps, grasp the tooth and gently rock it back and forth to loosen it from the jaw bone and ligaments that hold it in place. Sometimes, a tooth that is difficult to remove must be taken out in pieces.
Once the tooth has been extracted, a blood clot usually forms in the socket. The dentist will pack a gauze pad into the socket and get you to bite down on it to help stop the bleeding. Sometimes the dentist will place a few stitches -- usually self-dissolving -- to close the gum edges over the extraction site.
Sometimes, the blood clot in the socket breaks loose, exposing the socket -- a painful condition called dry socket. If this happens, your dentist will probably place a sedative dressing over the socket for a few days to protect it as a new clot forms.