When you were 6, 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 tug. As an adult, tooth loss is hardly cause for celebration, yet having a tooth pulled is sometimes necessary.
Reasons for Pulling Teeth
Although permanent teeth were meant to last a lifetime, there are a number of reasons why tooth extraction may be needed. The most common is a tooth that is too badly damaged, from trauma or decay, to be repaired. Other reasons include:
- A crowded mouth. Sometimes dentists pull teeth to prepare the mouth for orthodontia. The goal of orthodontia is to properly align the teeth, which may not be possible if your teeth are too big for your mouth. Likewise, if a tooth cannot break through the gum (erupt) because there is not room in the mouth for it, your dentist may recommend pulling it.
- Infection. If tooth decay or damage extends to the pulp – the center of the tooth containing nerves and blood vessels – bacteria in the mouth can enter the pulp, leading to infection. If infection is so severe that antibiotics do not cure it, extraction may be needed to prevent the spread of infection.
- Risk of infection. If your immune system is compromised (for example, if you are receiving chemotherapy or are having an organ transplant) even the risk of infection in a particular tooth may be reason to pull the tooth.
- Gum disease. If periodontal disease – an infection of the tissues and bones that surround and support the teeth – have caused loosening of the teeth, it may be necessary to the pull the tooth or teeth.