3d render of lower jaw with tooth being pulled out and extracted by dental forceps

How Long Does It Take to Pull a Tooth Out at the Dentist?

The time required to pull a single tooth out in a dentist office can be between 5 and 15 minutes per tooth. However, the entire extraction procedure involves additional preparation and post-extraction care which can add significantly to the total time spent at the dentist for an extraction.

While the duration can vary depending on your situation, understanding the process can help alleviate some of the apprehension. 

In this article, we will explore the tooth extraction procedure, factors that can affect the duration of the extraction, and aftercare tips to prevent complications and promote a speedy recovery. 

Preparation and Assessment

Although tooth extraction may appear to be a straightforward procedure, it is a multi-step process that requires careful consideration and preparation before removing the tooth. 

Medical History Assessment

To ensure a safe and successful tooth extraction procedure, your dentist will thoroughly evaluate your medical history. This may include asking questions about any pre-existing conditions or allergies, medications you are currently taking, previous dental treatments, and whether your family has a history of tooth decay. 

Oral Examination

After taking your medical history, your dentist will thoroughly examine your teeth, gums, and oral cavity. 

The examination will begin with a physical assessment of your teeth to check for cavities, decay, sensitivity, and tartar buildup, using specialized instruments such as the dental probe and explorer. 

Your dentist may also use a mouth mirror to evaluate hard-to-access areas and a periodontal probe to measure the depth of gum pockets, indicating the health of your gums and the possibility of gum disease.  

Finally, your dentist may recommend dental X-rays to assess the roots of the affected tooth and the surrounding jawbone structure. The X-ray results will help determine the best method for extracting the tooth and identify any complications that may arise during the procedure. 

Post-examination Review

This is the final step in the preparation and assessment process, where your dentist will review the results of your oral examination and advise you on the viability of a tooth extraction procedure.

It’s important to note that tooth extraction is usually considered a last resort by most dentists. Therefore, if the examination results indicate that the natural tooth can be saved, your dentist may recommend alternative treatments such as dental fillings and root canal therapy.

However, if a tooth extraction is the only option, your dentist will provide pre-operative instructions to ensure the procedure goes smoothly and you remain comfortable throughout. 

For example, your dentist will discuss the various anesthetics available and recommend the best option based on your level of dental anxiety and medical history. Furthermore, they may recommend that you fast and avoid smoking or drinking alcohol for a certain amount of time before the procedure.  

The length of the preparation and assessment procedure may vary depending on your case, but usually, a thorough examination can take between 10-30 minutes. However, your assessment may take longer if your dentist requires additional tests, such as dental X-rays. 

The Tooth Extraction Procedure

Tooth extraction can be an intimidating experience. However, a thorough understanding of the process can help alleviate any anxiety or fear. 

In this section, we will provide you with a comprehensive overview of the tooth extraction process, including the different extraction methods, the tools that are typically used, and the approximate duration of the procedure. 

Administration of Anesthesia

Your dentist will administer local anesthesia before beginning the tooth extraction procedure. They will carefully consider various factors, including the location of the tooth, your medical history, and the expected duration of the procedure, to determine the most appropriate type of anesthetic to use

For example, bupivacaine may be used for more lengthy procedures due to its longer-lasting effects. In contrast, lidocaine is typically used for standard tooth extractions as it lasts for up to 2 hours. 

While you may feel a slight pinch during the injection, your dentist can alleviate discomfort by applying a numbing gel on the gums. In some cases, more complex extractions may require IV sedation or general anesthesia.

The amount of time for the administration and onset of local anesthesia can take two to ten minutes. Some patients may require multiple doses to obtain profound anesthesia depending on your physiology and the condition of the tooth being extracted. 

Loosening the Tooth

Before extracting a tooth, your dentist will need to loosen it first. The approach will depend on factors such as the tooth’s location, shape, condition, and complexity of the extraction.

One technique involves using a dental tool called an elevator to widen the socket and separate the tooth from the periodontal ligament. Another option may involve sectioning the tooth into smaller pieces if it is firmly anchored in the jawbone or difficult to remove in one piece. 

In such cases, a dental drill will be used to break the tooth into smaller sections which can then be extracted individually.

The amount of time for loosening the tooth can range from 1 to 5 minutes.

Extracting the Tooth

After the tooth has been loosened, your dentist will proceed with its extraction, utilizing one of the two methods outlined below based on the location and condition of the tooth.

  • Simple extraction: This is a routine procedure for extracting teeth above the gum line. Your dentist will use a pair of dental forceps to grab the affected tooth and gently rock it back and forth until it comes loose from its socket. Time estimate: 2 to 15 minutes.
  • Surgical extraction: This is a procedure for extracting teeth that are hard to access, such as wisdom or impacted teeth below the gumline. Erupted teeth that are above the gum line may also require a surgical extraction should the simple extraction method fail due to root fracture or other complications. To access the tooth, the dentist may make a small incision in the gum tissue and remove sections of the bone surrounding it. Time estimate: 10 to 60 minutes or longer.

After tooth extraction, the dentist thoroughly cleans the socket to remove any debris and infected tissue. If the tooth requires surgical extraction, your dentist or oral surgeon may also place stitches on the gum tissue to promote proper healing and close any incision.

Factors Affecting Tooth Extraction Duration

The duration of your tooth extraction may vary depending on the factors below: 

The Complexity of the Extraction

Simple tooth extractions may take a few minutes since the affected tooth requires little preparation. However, surgical tooth extraction may take over an hour, especially if the affected tooth is impacted or severely decayed. 

Type of Anesthesia

Local anesthesia generally takes effect within a few minutes, whereas administering general anesthesia or IV sedation requires more time and expertise. Furthermore, unlike local anesthesia, the recovery time for general anesthesia is usually longer.

Medical History 

Your medical history can significantly affect the duration of the tooth extraction procedure. For instance, your dentist must administer clotting factors before the extraction if you have a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia. Likewise, preparing the extraction site can take longer than usual for older patients with conditions that affect bone density, such as osteoporosis. 

Therefore, informing your dentist of your medical history is vital to minimize any potential risk during the extraction. 

Your Dentist or Surgeon’s Skill Level

Although all dentists are well trained to perform tooth extractions, not all dentists are at the same skill level or have the same amount of experience. Your dentist’s skill level and experience could have an effect on the duration of your dental extraction. 

Aftercare and Recovery 

It’s important that you prioritize post-operative care after the tooth extraction to avoid complications and ensure a full recovery. 

Pain Management

It is common to experience discomfort, pain, and swelling around the extraction site after the procedure. Although over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen can help alleviate the pain, your dentist may prescribe stronger medication. Furthermore, applying an ice pack to the affected cheek can reduce swelling and discomfort. 

Wound Care

Your dentist will place a gauze pad on the extraction site immediately after the extraction to prevent bleeding. You’ll be advised to gently bite down on the pad for 30-45 minutes before changing. It is recommended to keep a gauze pad over the extraction site for the first 24 hours, even if the bleeding has stopped, to encourage the formation of a protective blood clot over the socket.

After 24 hours, you can rinse your mouth with salt water to alleviate discomfort and swelling, but avoid forcefully spitting, as it may dislodge the blood clot and lead to a dry socket.

Oral Hygiene

Maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial to promoting quick recovery and avoiding infection at the extraction site. However, it is important to note that after a tooth extraction, you should avoid brushing the area surrounding the tooth socket for at least 48 hours. 

Additionally, it is recommended to avoid using mouthwash during this period as it may irritate the extraction site and potentially dislodge the protective blood clot. Instead, you can use salt water to gently rinse your mouth after meals to promote healing and reduce the risk of infection.

Diet Restrictions

After the tooth extraction, your dentist will advise you to avoid consuming solid foods for the first few hours as they can irritate the extraction site. Instead, choose cool and soft foods such as mashed potatoes, applesauce, and yogurt. 

It is essential to avoid drinking alcohol during the recovery process as it can further irritate the extraction site. Additionally, refraining from smoking is crucial as cigarette smoke can hinder the healing process, and the sucking motion can potentially dislodge the protective blood clot.

Although there is no fixed timeline for recovery after tooth extraction, the extraction site usually takes several days to a week or two to fully heal. It’s worth noting that the recovery period can vary depending on factors such as the type of tooth extraction, your overall health, and the effectiveness of your aftercare routine.

However, you should contact your dentist immediately if your experience any of the following symptoms: 

  • Excessive bleeding that doesn’t stop after the first 24 hours
  • Tingling and numbness in your tongue, lips, and cheek
  • Signs of an infection, such as fever, chills, and pus from the extraction site
  • Severe pain that isn’t relieved by pain medications 

Lastly, attending all scheduled follow-up appointments with your dentist is crucial, as they will be able to assess the extraction site and address any potential complications that may arise.

In summary, the duration of a tooth extraction procedure is ultimately determined by several factors, including the complexity of the procedure and your medical history. That said, tooth extraction is a standard and safe procedure that can effectively alleviate chronic tooth pain, treat impaction, and prevent progressive tooth decay.

You can check out the resources below to learn more about tooth extraction and general dental health. For advice and treatment, please contact us for an appointment.