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Posted on 24th September 2018

What To Expect and What Can Go Wrong with Tooth Extraction

Visiting the dentist can be a stressful experience, especially if you are one of the unfortunate 25% of individuals who are scared of the dentist. The majority of the time, a trip to the dentist is easy, quick, relatively painless, but there are times where this isn't the case.

With over 22 million adults visiting an NHS dentist every year, it is no surprise that occasionally things go wrong; but what do you do when your tooth extraction doesn’t go to plan, and you wind up with wisdom tooth removal nerve damage? Making a dental negligence claim or suing a dentist might be the best option if you have suffered from dental negligence.

What is tooth extraction?

Tooth extraction is a fairly common dental procedure where a tooth is removed from your mouth by removing it from its socket in the bone. A tooth extraction should always be done under an anaesthetic. In most cases, this will be a local anaesthetic. However, in more extreme cases, you could be given a general anaesthetic or sedation.

Tooth extractions are not a rare procedure, but it is rare for things to go wrong or for dental negligence to take place. Later we explain more about what can go wrong with tooth extraction and how this could result in a dental negligence claim.

There are generally two types of extraction, surgical and non-surgical or simple. A surgical tooth extraction only happens on rare occasions.

When do you need a tooth extracted?

There are a number of reasons why a tooth might need to be removed, including tooth decay, gum disease, crowded teeth and impacted wisdom teeth. Tooth extractions are becoming increasingly frequent in the UK, especially among children. Last year, around 170 youngsters had to have teeth extracted every day, with sugar being blamed as the leading cause of the epidemic.

How long does tooth extraction take?

It really depends on the complexity of the procedure. It can take as little as fifteen minutes up to a couple of hours depending on the extent of the damage, the location of the tooth and the size of the tooth.

Surgical removal will always take at least an hour and a half, if not more. Your dentist should be able to give you an approximation of how long your appointment will take based on the specifics of your procedure.

Non-Surgical (Simple) Tooth Extraction: The Step-by-Step Process

The length of time it takes for a dentist to extract a tooth depends on the complexity of each individual case and can range from 15 minutes to two hours or more. The process is relatively simple and often goes smoothly with no issues that could result in a dental claim. The basic method of a tooth extraction is:

1. Numbing the tooth

An anaesthetic will be administered to the gum and will numb the area around the tooth that needs extraction. The anaesthetic is administered by injection directly into the gum and can be slightly painful. However, it is over quickly, and then the mouth should be completely numb to any pain or feeling.

2. Expanding the socket

The dentist uses something called a dental elevator:

Teeth are firmly encased within a bone socket, and in order to remove the tooth, this socket needs to be expanded. Your dentist will use a tool called a dental elevator to do this. This elevator is wedged into the space between the jaw bone and the tooth and twisted around the area to loosen it.

3. Removing the tooth

Your dentist will use extraction forceps:

Some teeth can be loosened enough to be removed just using the elevator, but others will require the use of dental forceps. The dental forceps are used to rock the tooth back and forth to expand the socket further and remove the tooth.

4. Closing the extraction site

Once the tooth has been extracted, it will leave a hole behind which needs to be closed up. If the tooth was infected before it was removed, then any remaining infection will need to be removed by scraping the walls of the socket. Once it is clean, pressure will be applied, and any sharp bone edges will be rounded. In some cases, heavy bleeding can happen, which is subdued by placing materials in the socket and a gauze to bite down on.

Should Tooth Extraction Hurt?

When getting your tooth removed you should not feel any pain because of the anaesthetic, the only pain you should ever feel is the initial injection. If you do feel pain during a tooth extraction, you should let your dentist know immediately as the site of extraction must be entirely numb. It is normal to feel some pressure during a tooth extraction, and also snapping and breaking noises are common but nothing to worry about.


The main things you'll be contending with are bleeding, swelling and numbness.

Your dentist might give you a gauze to cover your wound and help stem bleeding. Keep applying pressure to this over the next hour to minimise bleeding and help blood clot.

You should also be given a document detailing how you should care for your wound. If you have any further questions when you get home, call your dentist or check the Oral Health Foundation's list of questions.

The numbness in your mouth will wear off gradually, but may feel strange at first. This is entirely normal. Your speech may be slurred and you might find drinking difficult.

Your dentist will give you an ice pack if they think there is a risk of significant swelling. You can use an ice-pack at home as well to keep swelling down.

Surgical Tooth Extraction

When is a surgical tooth extraction necessary?

If you have an impacted wisdom tooth

This is when a tooth grows at a funny angle and looks a bit like this:


If a tooth breaks during simple extraction and cannot be removed without surgery

These type of teeth are more likely to break:

  • Severely damaged tooth that will not be strong enough to remove using forceps (like a severely decayed tooth, for example)
  • A tooth that has undergone root canal

If the patient is likely to become too distressed during a simple extraction, so general anaesthetic is needed. This is common when a patient is a child, has learning difficulties or suffers from a severe phobia of the dentist.

When Tooth Extraction Goes Wrong And When To Make A Dental Negligence Claim

As with any medical procedure, it is possible for things to go wrong. This can result in teeth removal nerve damage, wisdom tooth removal nerve damage and many other dental issues. When it comes to dental negligence, it isn’t always enough that something goes wrong during a tooth extraction, but it must be proven that the dentist failed their duty of care to you.

With over 24,000 dentists across the country performing NHS activities every year, mistakes such as removing the wrong teeth, not giving enough warning of the risks involved and lack of aftercare can take place.

If you feel that you were mistreated by your dentist, then you could be entitled to make a dental negligence claim. If you find yourself wondering, can I sue my dentist? Then the answer may very well be yes by making a dental injury claim.

Making a dental negligence claim can result in you receiving compensation for your injuries, and also highlights the issues that are present in a dental practice. Here are a few examples of dental negligence during tooth extraction that may be a valid reason for a dental injury claim:

  • Incorrect tooth extracted
  • Teeth being extracted incorrectly
  • Teeth removal nerve damage
  • Infections contracted because of a lack of aftercare
  • Failure to identify and diagnose dental conditions which lead to further complications
  • Wisdom teeth removal nerve damage
  • Incorrect application of anaesthetics
  • Failure of cosmetic restoration procedures
  • Failing to check allergies and medical history.

Making a dental claim or cosmetic surgery compensation claims often starts with following the NHS complaints procedure if an NHS dentist completed the dental work. When making a dental negligence claim try to keep records of every conversation and appointment you have had with your dentist, as it will all provide useful evidence when suing dentists or making dental claims.

As always, the team of expert medical negligence solicitors at Negligence Claimline will be on hand to help, with advice and support if you want to pursue your dental negligence claim.

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