When dentists extract a damaged tooth that cannot be saved, the aim is to remove the tooth as a single unit. This is not always possible. When the tooth has begun to break up while still in the socket, it might already have been sectioned. In some cases, it can be necessary for your dentist to manually section a damaged tooth in order to safely remove it. So what happens when small sections of the extracted tooth have been left behind?
You generally won't notice any leftover tooth fragments until you have begun to heal from the extraction. Any bleeding will long have stopped, and the inflammation of the gum will have subsided. In fact, your gums might look perfectly healthy, aside from the absent tooth. But then one day, you might feel a tiny, sharp object protruding from the site of the extraction, and this is a leftover fragment of your extracted tooth. But why does it only make itself known after the extraction has already been completed?
These fragments have essentially been buried under your gums during the healing process. And yet, your body registers them as foreign objects, not connected to any other part of your body and no longer serving a purpose. As such, your body will begin to expel these foreign objects by pushing them out. Although your own body is taking steps to rid itself of these fragments, does it need any assistance?
Smaller fragments will generally be pushed out without assistance. Although you can feel them under your tongue, you might not notice when they finally detach, as you can easily swallow them without realising. These smaller fragments don't usually require intervention, but larger chips can warrant a trip to the dentist who performed the extraction.
Some fragments are too large to be efficiently expelled. Your dentist can generally remove these with tweezers, and while the task is straightforward enough, it's something that requires a professional touch, so don't try to remove them yourself. Larger fragments that cannot be easily removed can sometimes require a small incision in your gums to allow your dentist to access the fragment. In these cases, anaesthetic (topical or local) is usually given, and you will face some additional healing time, although not to the same extent as your initial extraction.
Although leftover fragments after tooth extraction aren't especially common, it can still happen and it's important to know what to expect.