As children, most people never have to wonder what happens to their teeth after they fall out or are extracted. The tooth fairy takes them when you sleep, and leaves you a dollar--or more if she's feeling generous! However, as an adult who has just had a tooth extracted, you might be wondering just what happens to your extracted teeth when you walk out of that dental office, your face swollen and numb.

Does the dentist simply drop the tooth into a waste bin before preparing for the next extraction? In the US, experts have estimated that 20 million teeth are extracted each year. Just where do they all go?

They are Used to Teach the Next Generation of Dentists

Extracted teeth are ideal for dental students to practice on and study as they work towards becoming the next generation of dentists. Dentists too use extracted teeth to hone their craft, practicing skills such as drilling and performing root canals. Dentists either donate extracted teeth to dental schools or give them to dental students looking for teeth to study.

Extracted Teeth are Used to Improve Dentistry

Modern dentistry continues to improve and new ways of treating teeth are being developed all the time. However, without your extracted teeth, and without the dental companies that use them to conduct research, this progress would be much slower. Extracted teeth can be used by dental companies to create new and innovative products like dental adhesive, whitening treatments, and filling materials among countless other things.

Some Teeth are Incinerated

Many teeth are simply thrown into a hazardous waste disposal container, then taken away by a medical waste disposal company to be incinerated along with other medical waste. However, if teeth contain amalgam fillings, then they can't be incinerated as the mercury contained in the amalgam will be released into the atmosphere.

Your Teeth Could be Sent to a Metal Recycling Centre

 If extracted teeth contain amalgam fillings, they are sent to metal recycling centres where the amalgam is then removed, and the teeth disposed of.

Can You Take Your Teeth Home with You?

Some dentists will allow you to take home your teeth after extraction, but make sure you mention this before your extraction takes place. Because teeth are often labelled as medical waste, some dentists are against letting patients take them home. If your dentist does allow you to take your tooth home, they will first disinfect it to remove any remaining blood or tissue.

Next time you leave your dentist's office, minus a tooth, at least you know that your tooth may well be contributing to the future of dentistry