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Why do I need to have a tooth removed?

You may need a tooth removed for one or more of the following reasons.

  • Tooth decay
  • Periodontal (gum) disease
  • Trauma
  • Dental abscess
  • Failed root-canal treatment
  • Severe pain
  • Over-eruption
  • Orthodontic treatment
  • Treatment planning
  • Medical reasons

Are there any alternatives to removing a tooth?

Simple painkillers such as paracetamol can help control mild pain and antibiotics can help with infection.

Sometimes root-canal treatment will help to treat infection and pain.

Depending on how damaged your tooth is, your dentist may be able to rebuild it with a filling or crown.

What does the operation involve?

Most teeth are removed under a local anaesthetic that is injected around your tooth to numb it. The operation can take up to 40 minutes.

Your surgeon will loosen and remove your tooth with instruments called elevators and forceps. Most teeth can be loosened and removed in less than a minute. However, sometimes removing a tooth can involve cutting the gum to uncover your tooth, removing bone around your tooth and dividing your tooth with a drill.

Figure showing the process of tooth extraction

What complications can happen?

General complications of any operation

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Infection

Specific complications of this operation

  • Dry socket, where the socket does not heal well
  • Retained roots
  • Damage to nearby teeth
  • Damage to nerves
  • Broken jaw
  • Not being able to open your mouth fully (trismus) and jaw stiffness
  • Sinus problems
  • Osteonecrosis, a rare condition where tissue in your jawbone starts to die preventing your tooth socket from healing properly

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the same day.

Try to leave your wound alone for 1 to 2 days. Then rinse your mouth gently with hot, salty water four times a day for the next 2 days.

To reduce the risk of bleeding, swelling and bruising, do not exercise, drink alcohol or have a hot bath for 1 week.

You may need to take up to a week off work. You should be able to return to normal activities within a week.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Most people make a full recovery.


Teeth can sometimes cause serious problems. Removing a tooth is usually a safe and effective way to prevent your symptoms from coming back.


The operation and treatment information on this website is published under license by The London Clinic from EIDO Healthcare UK and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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