Why might I need my tooth extracted?
Tooth extraction (‘tooth removal’ or ‘having a tooth out’) is normally a straightforward procedure, but before extracting a tooth, your dentist should ensure you understand why the extraction is necessary. Often teeth are extracted because they are too badly damaged or decayed to repair, or because they are infected and may affect your health (particularly if your immune system is compromised). But sometimes healthy teeth may have to be removed as part of orthodontic treatment, to make sure your teeth have enough room to be correctly realigned by braces.
Will I be awake while my tooth is extracted?
Usually, teeth are extracted under a local anaesthetic. However, sometimes tooth removal is carried out under sedation or deeper ‘twilight sleep’ if you are anxious, or if the dentist has reason to think the procedure may be difficult or longer than usual. This is more common where multiple teeth, compacted teeth or wisdom teeth are to be removed. In rare cases, a dentist may recommend a general anaesthetic.
In a standard procedure, the dentist will inject local anaesthetic into the gum to numb the area and may massage your jaw to help the anaesthetic take effect, which should only take a minute or two. Once they’ve checked that the local anaesthetic is working, the dentist will begin widening your tooth socket. You will be aware of movement as they rock the tooth in its socket to loosen it. Once your tooth is loose, they will extract it and if necessary stitch the tooth socket with soluble stitches. Normally the whole procedure takes just a few minutes.
When removing compacted teeth, the dentist may need to cut away some bone tissue and gum and may also have to break up the tooth to make it easier to remove, so the procedure will take longer.
If you have had only a local anaesthetic, then as soon as the dentist is satisfied that the bleeding has stopped, you can go home. If you have had any type of sedative or a general anaesthetic, you will need to stay at the clinic or hospital until the staff are happy that you are recovering normally. You will need someone else to take you home and stay with you until you are fully recovered from the effects of the sedative or anaesthetic.
What are the risks of tooth extraction?
Bleeding and infection are the main two risks, but following your dentist’s aftercare instructions can go a long way towards avoiding these complications. You may develop ‘dry socket’, where blood doesn’t form a clot in the socket and bony tissue is exposed. This prevents the extraction site from healing; infection may set in and you may have severe pain and an ache in your jaw. If you have these symptoms, then contact your dentist. There is also a small risk of nerve damage, which can cause tingling or numbness in the gums, tongue, lower lip or chin, but this is only permanent in very rare cases.
How long will it take me to recover from a tooth extraction?
If you have had a general anaesthetic, twilight sleep or sedation, you will need time to recover from their effects. Any bleeding that occurs should stop within 15 minutes if you apply gentle pressure by holding a pad firmly but gently over the socket and either holding it in place or carefully biting down, but if bleeding persists then contact your dentist. It can be tempting to rinse your mouth after a tooth extraction, but resist — this can prevent blood clotting, which is necessary to protect the extraction site. Leave it several hours and then rinse your mouth with a weak solution of salt water.
You will also need to avoid hot drinks and food, and only eat soft foods for the rest of the day. Some people may feel up to returning to work in the afternoon if they have had an extraction early in the day, depending on the complexity of the procedure. Otherwise, you should be able to return to work the next day.
How much does tooth extraction cost?
NHS charges for standard tooth extractions are £50.50, while private fees vary from £70 for simple single tooth extractions to around £500, with prices from £300 to £1800 for wisdom tooth removal.