Tooth extraction

Tooth extraction is a common treatment and it is usually a quick procedure. If a tooth needs to be removed and it is not fully through in the mouth, the procedure is more complicated and takes longer.

Reasons for taking teeth out

There are many reasons why your dentist may suggest that you have a tooth taken out. These reasons may include:

  • If a tooth is decayed or is infected. This can be really painful and some people may get abscesses (where the pus collects inside the gum).
  • If you have broken a tooth by accident. 
  • If you have severe gum disease. This may affect the support structure of your teeth.
  • Your teeth are crooked. If your teeth are crooked there may not be enough space in your mouth. In this case a tooth is removed so your other teeth have room to grow.
  • There is not enough space for your wisdom teeth to grow. 
  • There are extra teeth or teeth in the wrong place. 

What happens

Your tooth will be taken out either by a dentist or an oral surgeon. Most people will be given a local anaesthetic (your mouth is numbed) for this procedure. However, in some cases people are given a general anaesthetic (put to sleep) but this means that the extraction has to be done in a hospital.

Some people have a combination of local anaesthetic and sedation. This makes you feel relaxed but not asleep.

If you have a local anaesthetic this will be given as an injection into the gum. You will be awake but when the anaesthetic starts to work you won’t be able to feel any pain.

The dentist will use some tools called elevators to loosen your tooth. When this has been done, forceps (like long tweezers) are then used to wiggle the tooth around until it comes out.

If the tooth is not fully through, the gum may have to be cut to get to the tooth more easily. This is no more painful than a straightforward extraction, but it takes longer and then you might need some stitches to put the gum back. These usually dissolve and fall out by themselves.

Your dentist will then give you some gauze to bite on. This will help to stop the bleeding when you bite onto it for a few minutes. Even if the tooth was fully through, you may be given a couple of stitches to close the hole in your gum. If these do not dissolve by themselves, they may need to be taken out a week later.

How long does it take?

It shouldn’t take much more than 20-30 minutes, unless you have to have the general anaesthetic which means you will have to spend a few hours at the hospital. You can usually go home the same day though.

Does it hurt? 

You will probably feel strange sensations of pressure as the tooth is coming out, but you won’t feel any pain because of the anaesthetic. You might find that the injection is slightly sore but it is not too bad!


You should spend the rest of the day taking things easy. You should not be in much pain (if you are some painkillers should help).

  • Eat soft foods and avoid hot drinks and spicy foods. These may cause pain and start the bleeding again.
  • Do not rinse or spit for the rest of the day, as this could cause bleeding.
  • The following day, rinse your mouth in warm salt water after meals to keep it clean. You can still brush your teeth but if your gum feels too sensitive try dipping a clean handkerchief into some warm salt water and wiping the area.
  • Don’t drink alcohol or smoke.
  • If the wound starts to bleed again, hold a piece of gauze or a clean handkerchief to the area and press tightly. This will eventually stop the bleeding.

Call you dentist or doctor if:

The bleeding continues for more than half an hour even if you have been holding gauze over the area.

  • You have problems breathing or swallowing.
  • The area is still swollen after three days
  • You have a temperature.
  • You are in a lot of pain and painkillers do not help.
Last reviewed: March 2011

Compiled by:
Great Ormond Street Hospital