Skip to main content

Wisdom tooth removal

Wisdom tooth removal is where 1 or more wisdom teeth at the back of your mouth are removed (extracted) because they're causing problems.

Why wisdom teeth might need to be removed

Wisdom teeth develop later than other teeth. They usually start coming through into your mouth in your teens or early 20s, but they can cause problems at any age.

You might need to have wisdom teeth removed if they do not have enough space to come through into your mouth fully. For example they may be blocked by another tooth (impacted) or partly covered by your gums.

This can cause:

A dentist may do X-rays to check how your wisdom teeth are positioned.

If it's not causing problems, the tooth will usually be left where it is and monitored at your routine dental check-ups.

What happens during wisdom tooth removal

A dentist might be able to remove wisdom teeth, or they may refer you to a specialist at a hospital, clinic or another dental surgery.

You'll usually have a local anaesthetic injection to numb the gum, so you will not feel any pain.

You may also have sedation to help you feel relaxed, or you may have a general anaesthetic, where you're asleep. You'll only need these if the teeth are more difficult to remove or you're anxious.

The main steps to remove wisdom teeth are:

  1. The dentist or surgeon will cut your gum, if it's covering the tooth.
  2. They'll widen the socket where the tooth fits into your gum.
  3. The tooth will be removed in 1 piece, or cut into 2 or 3 pieces.
  4. Your gum is then stitched if necessary, using dissolvable stitches.

It often takes just a few minutes, and should take no more than 40 minutes.

You'll usually go home the same day. If you had a general anaesthetic you might need to stay in hospital overnight.


Cost of wisdom tooth removal

If you have wisdom teeth removed by an NHS dentist you'll need to pay for a band 2 course of treatment, unless you're entitled to free NHS dental treatment.

Find out more about band 2 and other NHS dental charges.

Recovering from wisdom tooth removal

You can usually go back to your normal activities the day after having wisdom teeth removed. If they were more difficult to remove or you had a general anaesthetic you might need to take 1 to 3 days off work.

For up to 2 weeks after having wisdom teeth removed:

  • you'll usually have some pain and swelling, which should start to improve after 1 or 2 days
  • you might have bruising on your cheek
  • your jaw may be sore and stiff
  • you may find chewing and swallowing uncomfortable

If you had stitches, they'll dissolve by themselves. A blood clot will form over the wound, which helps it to heal.

You'll be given advice about things to do for the first few days to help your recovery.


  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen to help with pain

  • eat soft or liquid food until you can chew more comfortably

  • keep the wound clean by rinsing gently with mouthwash or warm salt water

  • clean your other teeth carefully, avoiding the affected area so you do not damage your stitches or the blood clot over the wound

  • if you get bleeding, press the area for at least 10 minutes with a clean cloth or piece of cotton wool


  • do not drive for 48 hours after a general anaesthetic, or for 24 hours after a sedative injection

  • do not eat hard or crunchy food, or food that could get stuck in the wound such as nuts or seeds

  • do not smoke – smoking can increase the risk of infection

  • do not drink alcohol or very hot drinks, to reduce the risk of bleeding or scalding

Possible complications of wisdom tooth removal

Wisdom tooth removal is usually a simple procedure, but as with any procedure, complications can happen. Your dentist or surgeon will explain the risks to you before the procedure.

Complications can include:

  • dry socket – a painful condition where the blood clot over the tooth socket does not form properly or is dislodged before your gum has healed
  • an infection, which may need to be treated with antibiotics
  • damage to nerves close to the tooth, causing numbness or tingling in your tongue, lips and chin – this usually gets better but can last a few weeks or months

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent dentist appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:

  • you have bleeding that does not stop
  • you have pain and swelling that's severe or getting worse and painkillers are not helping
  • you have pain with a bad taste in your mouth, a high temperature or feeling unwell

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

Page last reviewed: 12 June 2024
Next review due: 12 June 2027