Skip to content

Oral Care

Select An Article
Font Size

Tooth Extraction

Gum disease can loosen or severely damage a tooth. A tooth that is severely damaged may need to be removed. Your dentist or a surgeon who specializes in surgeries of the mouth (oral and maxillofacial surgeon) can remove a tooth.

Before removing your tooth, your dentist will give you a local anesthetic to numb the area where the tooth will be removed. A stronger, general anesthetic may be used, especially if several or all of your teeth need to be removed. General anesthetic prevents pain in the whole body and will make you sleep through the procedure.

Recommended Related to Oral Health

Coping With Dental Phobia

Does the thought of succumbing to the dentist's chair send a jolt of anxiety through your body? When it comes to triggering a fear response, few things can set people off like an upcoming trip to the dentist. That fear can set in early.  Threatening comments from a parent, such as "If you don't brush your teeth, you'll have to go to the dentist," can leave a lasting negative impression. More common, a painful experience at the dentist's office during childhood triggers anxiety that carries over...

Read the Coping With Dental Phobia article > >

After the tooth is removed, you may need stitches. You can gently bite down on a cotton gauze pad placed over the wound to help stop the bleeding. The removed tooth can be replaced with an implant, a denture, or a bridge. A bridgecamera.gif is a replacement for one or more (but not all) of the teeth and may be permanent or removable.

What To Expect After Surgery

In most cases, the recovery period lasts only a few days. The following will help speed recovery:

  • Take painkillers as prescribed by your dentist or oral surgeon. Apply an ice or cold pack to the outside of your mouth to help relieve pain and swelling.
  • After 24 hours, rinse your mouth gently with warm salt water several times a day to reduce swelling and relieve pain. Make your own salt water by mixing 1 tsp (5 g) of salt in a medium-sized glass [8 fl oz (240 mL)] of warm water.
  • Change gauze pads before they become soaked with blood.
  • Relax after surgery. Physical activity may increase bleeding.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Eat soft foods, such as gelatin, pudding, or a thin soup. Gradually add solid foods to your diet as healing progresses.
  • Do not lie flat. This may prolong bleeding. Prop up your head with pillows.
  • Avoid rubbing the area with your tongue.
  • Do not use sucking motions, such as when using a straw to drink.
  • Continue to carefully brush your teeth and tongue.

After the tooth is removed, you may need stitches. Some stitches dissolve over time, and some have to be removed after a few days. Your dentist will tell you whether your stitches need to be removed.

Why It Is Done

Removing a tooth is necessary when decay or an abscessed tooth is so severe that no other treatment will cure the infection.

How Well It Works

Removing the tooth can help keep infection from spreading to other areas of your mouth.

Risks

Some dental work can cause bacteria in the mouth to enter the bloodstream and cause infections in other parts of the body. People who have a hard time fighting off infections may need to take antibiotics before and after dental surgery. You may need to take antibiotics if you:

  • Have certain heart problems that make it dangerous for you to get a heart infection called endocarditis.
  • Have an impaired immune system.
  • Had recent major surgeries or have man-made body parts, such as an artificial hip or heart valve.

After an extraction, a blood clot forms in the tooth socket. The clot protects the bone while the healing process takes place. If that blood clot is loosened or dislodged, you may have a dry socket, in which the bone is exposed. Dry sockets may last for several days and may cause severe pain that sometimes includes ear pain.

What To Think About

A tooth extraction should be done as soon as possible to avoid the spread of infection and more serious problems. In cases in which a root canal treatment might not save the tooth, your dentist may recommend that the tooth be removed and a bridgecamera.gif or implant installed.

Smoking or using spit tobacco delays healing and reduces your ability to fight infection in your gums. So to heal well after your surgery, it's best to stop all use of tobacco. If you do smoke, the sucking motion of inhaling may loosen or dislodge the blood clot that is important for healing. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.

Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerSteven K. Patterson, BS, DDS, MPH - Dentistry
Current as ofJanuary 24, 2013

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 24, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

Get the latest Oral Health newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Never
(0)
Good
(1-3)
Better
(4-6)
Best
(7)

You are currently

Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

close up of woman sticking out tongue
Sores, discoloration, bumps and more.
toothbrushes
10 secrets to a brighter smile.
 
Veneer smile
Before and after.
Woman checking her bite in mirror
Why dental care is important.
 

Woman dissatisfied with granola bar
Slideshow
woman with jaw pain
Quiz
 
eroded front teeth
Slideshow
brushing teeth
Video
 

Variety shades of tea
Slideshow
mouth and dental instruments
Article
 
Closeup of a happy young guy brushing his teeth
Tool
womans smile
Video