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Tooth extraction

7-minute read

Key facts

  • Sometimes, you may need to have a tooth extracted (pulled out) by a dentist.
  • The extraction is done either under local anaesthetic at a dentist’s office or general anaesthetic in hospital.
  • After the procedure, you may have some discomfort, pain, and bleeding.
  • Usually, the wound takes 2 weeks to heal.
  • Your dentist will talk to you about things you can do to help stop complications after tooth extraction.

What is a tooth extraction?

Sometimes, you may need to have a tooth pulled out. This is called a tooth extraction. This tooth extraction is usually done by a dentist or an oral surgeon. There are various reasons why you might need to have a tooth pulled. Learn what to expect during and after this dental procedure.

When might I need a tooth extraction?

You might need to have a tooth pulled out if you have:

  • bad gum disease
  • bad tooth decay (cavities)
  • a deep infection in a tooth
  • a broken tooth
  • orthodontic reasons e.g. overcrowding of teeth
  • problems with a wisdom tooth
  • trauma affecting your tooth or teeth

Wisdom teeth, which are the last adult teeth to arrive, sometimes need to be removed. They can become stuck if they don’t have enough space to grow into your mouth.

What happens before a tooth extraction?

Your dental practitioner will:

  • look at your affected tooth
  • look at the surrounding gums
  • check your medical history
  • take dental x-rays

What happens during a tooth extraction?

The extraction is done either under local anaesthetic at a dentist’s office or general anaesthetic in hospital.

If you need a tooth to be removed, your dentist will usually give you a local anaesthetic. The local anaesthetic will numb your tooth and gums so you don’t feel pain. Your dentist will then use a special tool to loosen the tooth in the gum. Once the tooth is loose, they will remove it with forceps.

If your tooth extraction is more complicated, you might need to be given a general anaesthetic in hospital. A general anaesthetic will put you to sleep.

What happens after a tooth extraction?

After your tooth has been removed, your dentist will need to make sure the gum socket is clean. The socket is the hole in the jawbone where the tooth used to be. If you needed a cut in the gum during tooth removal, you might need a stitch to close the cut.

You will have a little bit of bleeding after the tooth extraction. Your dentist will ask you to bite down on a piece of gauze to stop the bleeding.

Once the anaesthetic wears off, you will probably have some pain and discomfort. Your mouth may feel swollen.

Your dentist might write you a prescription for antibiotics, pain relief medicine or suggest an over-the-counter medicine.

How long does it take to get better after a tooth extraction?

Usually, the wound takes 2 weeks to heal.

How do I care for myself after tooth extraction?

You’ll probably be told to eat soft foods and chew on the unaffected side of your mouth for a while. Be careful not to bite your tongue, lip or cheek while it’s numb.

For the first 24 hours you should:

  • rest and avoid physical sports
  • avoid smoking
  • avoid drinking alcohol
  • avoid rinsing your mouth (as this may cause you to lose the blood clot which is important for normal healing)

After 24 hours you can gently rinse your mouth after meals and before bed. You can use a solution of half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of lukewarm water.

Try not to lie down flat, instead rest with your head slightly lifted.

What are the possible problems after tooth extraction?

The most common complications of tooth extraction are:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • infection
  • bleeding
  • temporary numbness

When should I speak to my dentist?

Speak to your dentist if you have:

  • ongoing very bad pain — this may be caused by a complication called dry socket
  • a lot of bleeding
  • a fever
  • swelling that does not go down or becomes worse

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

ASK YOUR DENTIST — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your health professional.

Are there other options besides tooth extraction?

Ask your dentist to explain any alternatives to tooth extraction and what their benefits and risks are.

What are the costs of tooth extraction?

Before you have any treatment, ask your dentist or oral surgeon for a quote including item numbers for the procedure.

If you have health insurance, check whether it covers tooth extraction. If you are having a tooth out in your dentist’s dental surgery, it may be covered under general dental treatment (extras) cover. If you need surgery, it is usually considered ‘major dental’. If it is being done in hospital you will also need to have hospital cover.

Also, check with your state health department for public oral health services you can use. Children aged from 2 to 17 years might be eligible for free basic dental services — check with Services Australia.

Resources and support

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2023

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