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Tooth removal

Key points

  • A tooth may be removed for several reasons, including decay, gum disease or if you have impacted wisdom teeth.
  • The procedure is usually done after a local anaesthetic injection. Some people also have a sedative to help them relax.
  • Your dentist will advise you on after care to help the healing process.

Featured FAQ

Why shouldn’t I rinse my mouth out soon after having my tooth removed?

You shouldn’t rinse your mouth out for at least six hours after having a tooth removed. This is because it could disturb any blood clot that may have formed and restart bleeding.

See all our FAQs on tooth removal

A tooth may be removed (extracted) if it’s damaged or decayed and can't be repaired.

You will meet the dentist carrying out your procedure to discuss your care. It may differ from what is described here as it will be designed to meet your individual needs.

About tooth removal

Tooth removal (or tooth extraction) involves having one or more teeth completely removed from your mouth. Your dentist will usually remove your tooth, but sometimes a surgeon will carry out the procedure in hospital.

There are several reasons why your tooth or teeth may need to be removed. The most common reasons include:

  • tooth decay
  • gum disease (periodontal disease)
  • a broken tooth that can’t be repaired
  • an abscess (a collection of pus) on your gums or around your teeth
  • crowded teeth
  • impacted wisdom teeth

Position of the teeth

Your teeth may be removed in a single appointment or over a few sessions. You can have a bridge or dentures (false teeth) to replace the one that is removed, or you may decide not to do this. Your dentist will explain all the options available to you.

What are the alternatives to tooth removal?

If you don't want to have your tooth taken out, there may be alternative treatments available. This will depend on the problem you have with your tooth or teeth. Painkillers can ease pain and swelling, but these will just relieve your symptoms in the short term. Antibiotics and root canal treatment can help treat an infection. You may be able to have a veneer or crown fitted if you have a damaged tooth. Your dentist will be able to discuss all of your options with you.

Preparing for tooth removal

Your dentist will explain how to prepare for your procedure. He or she will ask about your dental and medical history. It's important that you mention any medical conditions, allergies or recent surgery. Tell your dentist if you use an inhaler or are taking any medication, including the contraceptive pill or over-the-counter medicines, such as aspirin.

If you’re having your teeth removed by a dentist, the procedure is usually done under local anaesthesia. This completely blocks pain from your gums and you will stay awake during the procedure. You may be offered a sedative. This relieves any anxiety and helps you to relax.

Having a general anaesthetic for tooth extraction is unusual. It’s usually reserved for young children, adults with learning disabilities or if it’s decided to be the most appropriate treatment for you and your circumstances. If you have a general anaesthesia, it will be carried out in hospital. This means you will be asleep during the operation. You will be asked to follow fasting instructions. This means not eating or drinking, typically for about six hours beforehand. However, it’s important to follow your surgeon’s advice.

Your dentist or surgeon will discuss with you what will happen before, during and after your procedure, and any pain you might have. This is your opportunity to understand what will happen. You can help yourself by preparing questions to ask about the risks, benefits and any alternatives to the procedure. This will help you to be informed, so you can give your consent for the procedure to go ahead. You may be asked to do this by signing a consent form.

What happens during tooth removal?

Your dentist will inject a local anaesthetic into your mouth and check it has taken effect before starting the procedure.

Your dentist will widen your tooth socket and gently rock the tooth side to side until it’s loose enough to pull out. You will feel some pressure in your mouth and hear some noise. You shouldn’t feel any pain.

Most teeth only take a few minutes to remove. Afterwards, your dentist may close your tooth socket with stitches.

What to expect afterwards

You will have some bleeding from the gum where your tooth was removed. Your dentist will give you a piece of soft padding to bite on to stop the bleeding. You will need to stay at the dental surgery until the bleeding is controlled.

If your tooth is removed under general anaesthesia or sedation, you will need to rest until the effects of the anaesthetic or sedative have passed. You will need to arrange for someone to drive you home. You should try to have a friend or relative stay with you for the first 24 hours.

Both sedation and general anaesthesia temporarily affect your co-ordination and reasoning skills. Therefore, you must not drive, drink alcohol, operate machinery or sign legal documents for 24 hours afterwards. If you're in any doubt about driving, please contact your motor insurer so that you're aware of their recommendations. Always follow your dentist or surgeon's advice.

Before you go home, your dentist or surgeon will give you advice about looking after your teeth and gums. He or she may give you painkillers, antibiotics and mouthwash to take home. You may also be given a date for a follow-up appointment.

Recovering from tooth removal

After a local anaesthetic it may take several hours before the feeling comes back into your mouth.

If you need pain relief, you can take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Always read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine and if you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.

After having your tooth removed, there are certain steps you can take to help your recovery.

  • Don’t rinse your mouth out for at least six hours. After that, rinse gently with water. If you like, you can try adding half a teaspoon of table salt dissolved in a glass of warm water.
  • When you feel ready to eat, start with sips of warm (not hot or spicy), soft or pureed food that you don’t need to chew. Don’t suck on a straw.
  • If your gum bleeds, bite down on a clean pad of material such as a clean handkerchief for at least 15 minutes.
  • Don’t drink alcohol for at least 24 hours and don’t smoke for as long as possible – at least 24 hours.

It can take several days to a week to make a full recovery. You can brush your teeth but keep your toothbrush away from the healing wound to begin with, brushing closer to it each day.

Depending on the reason and type of tooth you have had removed, you may have stitches. These will dissolve by themselves and won’t need removing. It’s important to carefully brush these three to four days after the surgery to stop food getting trapped. However, be careful when brushing so that you don’t dislodge the newly-formed blood clots over your empty tooth socket.

What are the risks?

As with every procedure, there are some risks associated with tooth removal. We have not included the chance of these happening as they are specific to you and differ for every person. Ask your surgeon to explain how these risks apply to you.


Side-effects are the unwanted but mostly temporary effects you may get after having the procedure.

You’re likely to have some discomfort and swelling for a few days afterwards, and your jaw may feel a little stiff. You may have some bleeding for a day or so.


Complications are when problems occur during or after the procedure. Complications of having your tooth removed are listed below.

  • Infection. If you feel a burning sensation or you have heavy bleeding, increased swelling or pain, contact your dentist. You may have an infection and need antibiotics.
  • Dry socket. This happens when the blood doesn’t clot in your tooth socket, so it doesn’t heal properly. Symptoms include severe pain and you will need further treatment.


Reviewed by Natalie Heaton, Bupa Health Information Team, September 2013.

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For answers to frequently asked questions on this topic, see FAQs.

For sources and links to further information, see Resources.

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  • This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended only for general information and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the about our health information page.

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