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This is a procedure to remove a tooth.

Surgical Removal of a Tooth

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Reasons for Procedure

While dental techniques can save many teeth, a tooth may need to be removed if it:

  • Is too badly damaged or decayed to be saved by a root canal
  • Has an infected nerve
  • Is affecting normal tooth growth
  • Is loose from advanced gum disease
  • Has a loss of supporting bone, gums, or tissue
Possible Complications

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a tooth extracted, your dentist will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Nerve damage

Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Smoking
  • Poor nutrition
  • Poor overall health
  • Use of some prescription and non-prescription drugs—talk to your dentist about any medication you are taking.

Be sure to discuss these risks with your dentist before the procedure.

What to Expect
Prior to Procedure

Your dentist will likely:

  • Do a thorough dental exam
  • Do dental x-rays of the mouth

Depending on the procedure, your dentist will choose:

  • Local anesthesia—just the area that is being operated on is numbed; given as an injection
  • General anesthesia—blocks pain and keeps you asleep through the procedure
Description of the Procedure

If the tooth is impacted (buried in the gum), the overlying gum tissue will be opened to expose the tooth. Using forceps, the dentist will grasp the tooth and gently rock it back and forth. This action will loosen the tooth and break the ligaments that hold the tooth in place. The tooth will be pulled, and a blood clot will form in the empty socket. A gauze pad will be packed into the socket. In some cases, a few stitches will be placed to close the gum edges.

Immediately After Procedure

You will need to bite firmly but gently on the gauze pad. This will reduce bleeding and permit a clot to form in the tooth socket. If rapid bleeding continues, replace with a fresh pad every 20-30 minutes. Otherwise, leave the pad in place for 3-4 hours.

How Long Will It Take?

It often takes about 20 minutes, but may take longer for impacted teeth.

How Much Will It Hurt?

You will feel pain in your jaw. You may be given pain medication. A complication called dry socket may occur. A dry socket forms when a blood clot does not form in the tooth socket, leaving the bone in the jaw exposed to air and food. A dry socket takes 2-3 weeks to heal and is painful during the healing process.

Post-procedure Care

When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:

  • Do not smoke.
  • Continue to brush and floss other teeth. This will help prevent infection in the extraction site.
  • Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.

In the first 24 hours, expect some swelling and bleeding. The initial healing period usually takes about 1-2 weeks. New bone and gum tissue will grow into the gap.

Having a missing tooth can lead to shifting teeth, improper bite, or difficulty chewing. Your dentist may attempt to restore the area with an implant, fixed bridge, or denture.

Call Your Dentist

After arriving home, contact your dentist if any of the following occurs:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, or any discharge from the open socket
  • Excessive bleeding continuing for more than four hours after surgery
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medications you have been given
  • Any new symptom

In case of an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research


Canadian Dental Association

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association


Tooth decay. Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association website. Available at: Accessed January 13, 2015.

Tooth decay (caries). National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research website. Available at: Accessed January 13, 2015.

Last reviewed January 2015 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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