Removing teeth

Your surgeon may have recommended removing one or more of your teeth for the following reason(s):

  • Severe tooth decay
  • Gum disease that will eventually cause the tooth to become loose
  • Damage caused to the tooth as a result of an accident or injury 
  • Dental abscess that root-canal treatment cannot treat
  • A tooth has grown too long and may damage the cheek or gum
  • You may need more space for other teeth to grow straight
  • More extensive treatment, such as crowns, implants or bridges, may stand a better chance of success 
  • Badly diseased teeth may spread infection through your bloodstream

This is not a definitive list and reasons will vary with each patient. Please ask your consultant for more information.


Surgery can prevent these symptoms returning or improve the chances of success of other dental or orthodontic treatments.


  • Simple painkillers can help control any mild pain
  • Sometimes root-canal treatment will help to treat infection and pain
  • Depending on how damaged the tooth is, your dentist may be able to rebuild it with a filling or crown
  • If you need other dental or orthodontic treatment, it may be possible to continue without removing the tooth. However, this may reduce the chances of the treatment being a success.

The operation

Most teeth can be removed easily. However, removing a tooth can sometimes be difficult for the following reasons:

  • Very bad decay
  • Long or curved roots 
  • The tooth has not come through fully, or is in an abnormal position
  • The tooth is lying close to a nerve or sinus.

Your surgeon will usually take an X-ray to help find out if the procedure is going to be difficult. The procedure can take up to 40 minutes. Most teeth are removed under a local anaesthetic. Your surgeon or anaesthetist will recommend the best form of anaesthesia for you.

Your surgeon will loosen and remove the tooth with 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 the tooth, removing bone around the tooth and dividing the tooth with a drill. Your surgeon will discuss which procedure is suitable for you.   Your surgeon may need to close the gum with stitches and will place a pack made of gauze on the tooth socket. If the wound starts to bleed, bite on it for about ten minutes to stop any bleeding.

For more information, and if you have any queries about the procedure, speak to your consultant.

Continue your normal medication unless you are told otherwise.

The following lifestyle changes can help make the procedure a success:

  • Giving up smoking
  • Eating healthily. If overweight, you have a greater chance of developing complications
  • Exercising regularly. Your GP can recommend exercises.

Possible complications

  • Some pain is common with all operations
  • Bleeding after surgery. Your surgeon will tell you how to control any bleeding
  • Swelling and bruising. This is more common with lower teeth and depends on how difficult it was for the surgeon to remove the tooth
  • Infection. You may need antibiotics or further treatment
  • Dry socket, where the socket does not heal well. The risk is higher if you have a lower molar tooth removed. If you get a dull throbbing pain about 48 hours after the procedure, let your surgeon know
  • Damage to nearby teeth. These can loosen during surgery and may need to be removed if they do not become firm again. Fillings or crowns can also move and these may need to be replaced 
  • Damage to nerves, leading to loss of sensation or tingling in the teeth, jaw, lips, tongue and chin any damage is usually temporary.

This is not a definitive list and symptoms will vary with each patient. Please ask your consultant for more information.


Most people make a full recovery without any symptoms and return to normal activities within a week.

You should be able to go home the same day. Remember, you will not be able to drive after having your wisdom teeth removed under general anaesthetic.

Try to leave the wound alone for the first 24 hours. After this time, you should rinse your mouth gently with hot, salty water four times a day for the next two days.

You may be prescribed antibiotics. You should avoid smoking and make sure you keep your mouth as clean as possible to reduce the risk of infection. For further information and if you have any queries, ask your consultant.

Avoid any strenuous activities for the first 24 hours to reduce the risk of bleeding, swelling and bruising. Simple painkillers such as paracetamol should relieve any discomfort. For the first one to two days eat soft foods and move on to solids only when you can chew comfortably. Try to chew using the other side of your mouth.

You may need to take up to a week off work. Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible – your GP will give you advice on these. Most people return to normal activities within a week.

Your surgeon may arrange for you to come back to the clinic to remove any stitches or for a check-up.

Paying for your operation

Removing teeth costs are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own treatment the cost of the operation will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the operation. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the surgeon’s fee, the anaesthetist’s fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.

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