This is in response to a comment yesterday from Dave L, a first year dental student at UMB in Baltimore. You can check out Dave's site from my sidebar. Dave asks: "we haven't gotten to oral surgery yet I was wondering what is it about extracting teeth that makes it so difficult. I haven't seen a tooth extraction yet, but evidently there's a lot more to know than 'take a pliers and pull'."
Non Dental Types and the Squeamish might want to take a pass here....
Hey, thanks for the comment, Dave. To answer your question: Extractions are not hard, per se. Certain TEETH are hard. Go open your dental anatomy text and compare, say, #3 to #24. The molars, especially uppers, have three roots. If your text is like mine, it should show molars with a variety of roots, from convergent to highly divergent. if there's just one root, no problem, 2 minute extraction. 2 roots is harder. 3 is harder still. NOW pretend that the tooth is super decayed, so there's a minimal of cornal structure to grab on to! THAT was my patient yesterday. And there were two of those.
No, you don't just pull. You "luxate." Think of pulling up a fencepost. "Yanking" won't get you anywhere; you have to wiggle wiggle wiggle. bone is more flexible and less dense than tooth. So you can expand the socket. Then the tooth is ready to come out. If your roots are particulary divergent, you section into 2-3 pieces to remove in parts. If you don't have the access, you have to lay a perio flap (which is the gingival equivalent to peeling a banana) and then drill away the bone holding the tooth in. This is called a surgical extraction. To quote Dr. Hank, "If you're gonna take away bone...take away bone!"
A lot of dentists don't do surgical extractions, or extractions at all. They realize this is unpredicatble. The amount of time spent doing a surgical extraction (especially if you're not super good at it!) would be more economically spent doing a few crowns. So maybe you don't even have the equipment. This is what oral surgeons are for. This is why OSs can get up to $350 per tooth, as well.
Hank and I work in Community Health clinics and our uninsured patients are not super popular with the oral surgeons. So we end up doing a lot of it. We also end up getting pretty good at it; even a bit cocky. Some patient comes in, "Oh, Dr. Smith said I had to see an oral surgeon for that." Five minutes later, you're casually tossing that #16 onto a tray, making a flip remark like, "Congrats; it's a boy!" The patient is stunned. "Why did Dr. Smith think I needed an oral surgeon?" The temptation is to say, "Well, my friend; Dr. Smith is a p....er, conservative practitioner." But we all know sometimes the tooth that looks easy isn't. So be careful of that.
Oh, and Dave - Please call them "forceps" from now on! If you even whisper "pliers" up in the clinic, the 4th years will peg you as the guy to send off in search of an "amalgam shade guide" when you start assisting.... word to the wise - Good luck!