Learn more about why a dentist might recommend removing a tooth, what’s involved in most procedures, and what to do after an extraction.
If you have a tooth that's too badly damaged to repair, a dentist might recommend removing the tooth.* Lots of people refer to this procedure as “pulling a tooth,” although a dentist may be more likely to refer to it as a “tooth extraction.” Sometimes a dentist will recommend extraction for other reasons, such as before getting braces or dentures.
Tooth extractions vary based on the complexity, the condition of your tooth and any unique medical or dental health circumstances. Dentists can perform tooth extractions, but they may refer you to an oral surgeon or other specialist, depending on your case.
When does a tooth need to be extracted?
Dentists try to save a healthy tooth whenever they can, but sometimes a tooth is too badly damaged to save. This might happen because of:
- advanced tooth decay or gum disease
- a tooth infection
- a dental abscess beneath the tooth
- severe chips or cracks
Your dentist might also recommend an extraction if:
How do dentists extract teeth?
If you need an extraction, the dentist will normally give you a local anaesthetic to numb the pain. If you're having several teeth or all of your teeth removed, this might need to happen under general anaesthesia* in a hospital.
For a basic extraction, your dentist will hold the tooth firmly using a pair of forceps and rock it back and forth until it loosens and can be pulled out. If the tooth can't be removed this way or if there are other problems that need treatment, you might need oral surgery.
Your dentist can discuss options for replacing a missing tooth after your gum's has time to heal.
Does tooth extraction hurt?
Depending on how you react to local anaesthesia, you may not feel pain during the procedure itself, but this can vary from person to person. You might feel pain over the next few days after the treatment. Your dentist or doctor should be able to give you specific advice on how to manage pain or discomfort, including any over-the-counter options.
If you feel nervous about getting an extraction or any other dental procedure, you should talk to your dentist or doctor about any alternatives available to you.
What to do after an extraction
On average, post-extraction healing takes 1-2 weeks.
Usually, a dentist will recommend taking it easy and sticking to soft foods for the first day or two. You should try to eat on the other side of your mouth to help your gum tissue heal. It's important to keep brushing your teeth while you’re recovering, taking care to be gentle around the treated area.
Swelling is common after an extraction and it can last for a few days. To help reduce the swelling, try taking anti-inflammatory medication or holding an ice pack against your cheek.
If you’re experiencing any bleeding, try gently biting down on clean gauze until the bleeding stops. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, make an emergency appointment with your dentist.
How much does tooth extraction cost?
The cost of tooth extraction depends on whether it's a general extraction or if you need surgery. If you're having more than one tooth extracted, the cost for removing additional teeth may be lower per tooth. Speak to your dentist or surgeon for an exact quote.
Some health funds cover tooth extraction, depending on your cover, whether your plan includes dental services, and any annual limits. It’s best to speak directly to your health insurer to understand your cover. Kids may be eligible for free extractions from government-funded dental schemes, like the Child Dental Benefits Schedule.1
Tooth extraction cost Australia
- In 2018, single extractions cost between $139–$375 per tooth, according to an Australian Dental Association survey3
Tooth extraction cost New Zealand
- In 2018, single extractions cost $229 per tooth on average4
Please be aware that these are approximate price ranges only. Dental service costs vary widely based on geographic location, materials used, the complexity of the problem, and your own dental or medical circumstances.
Can I pull my own tooth?
No, please don’t. Only a registered medical or dental professional should perform this kind of procedure — never attempt to pull your own permanent (adult) teeth. Doing this could put you at risk of serious health problems, including permanent damage to your jaw, surrounding teeth, soft tissues, and other areas of your mouth or face.
The only time it’s ok to attempt taking out a tooth at home is if it’s a baby tooth that’s already quite loose.
What are the alternatives to tooth extraction?
In most cases, a dentist will only recommend an extraction if there are no other options. An infected tooth may be salvageable through root canal therapy, or a chipped or cracked tooth might be repaired by fitting a crown if you can get to a dentist in time.
If you want to speak to a dentist or specialist about tooth extraction, find a dental clinic near you.
*Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
1 Australian Department of Human Services. Child Dental Benefits Schedule. [Online] 2019 [Accessed June 2019] Available from: www.humanservices.gov.au
2 SA Health. Dental extractions. [Online] 2019 [Accessed June 2019] Available from: www.sahealth.sa.gov.au
3 Australian Dental Association. Dental Fees Survey: Private Practice Members. [Online] 2018 [Accessed May 2019] Available from: www.ada.org.au4 New Zealand Dental Association. 2018 Fee Survey. [Online] 2018 [Accessed May 2019] Available from: www.nzda.org.nz
The purpose of this article is to promote better understanding of dental health topics. It’s not meant to replace professional advice or diagnosis. Always talk to a dentist, doctor or other qualified healthcare professional if you have a question about dental or medical conditions.