Losing baby teeth in childhood is usually an exciting and highly anticipated sign of growing up. However, there are times when a baby tooth needs to be removed by a dentist, sometimes before they’re even loose. In these cases, it’s essential to take out the tooth instead of waiting for it to fall out to prevent a dental emergency. Here’s everything you need to know about children’s tooth extractions, including how they work, when they’re necessary, and how you can help your child’s treatment go as smoothly as possible.
When Do Children Need Tooth Extractions?
Baby teeth naturally begin to fall out on their own when the permanent tooth underneath is ready to come in. However, a child may need to have a primary tooth pulled before the permanent one is ready to erupt in the event of:
- Tooth decay: Since children often don’t follow thorough oral hygiene practices and the enamel on baby teeth is very fragile, children are very prone to cavities. If tooth decay is left untreated, fillings or a root canal may not be enough to fix the issue, so the tooth will need to be removed.
- Dental injury: If a child’s tooth is damaged in an accident, fall, or other injury, they’re likely to experience pain and sensitivity. If the tooth cannot be repaired with a crown or saved with pediatric pulp therapy (baby root canal), it will need to be taken out.
- Gum disease: Pediatric periodontal disease is a bacterial infection in the gum tissue that can causes red, puffy, and bleeding gums. As the infection worsens, it can lead to jawbone damage, severe bleeding, and damage to the connective tissues that hold the teeth in place.
- Orthodontic treatment: If a child needs orthodontic treatment, but the teeth are too crowded or there’s not enough space in the mouth for braces, a baby tooth may need to be extracted to make room.
Baby Tooth Extractions Step-By-Step
Typically, an extraction will start off with an X-ray to confirm the need for the tooth to be removed and predict any possible complications. Then, a local anesthesia is injected into the gums to numb the area and keep your child comfortable throughout the procedure. In some cases, your dentist may recommend sedation options like nitrous oxide sedation or oral conscious sedation.
Next, your dental team will carefully loosen the tooth with an instrument called an elevator and remove the tooth from its socket with forceps. Afterwards, the site is covered with gauze and pressure is applied for about 20 minutes. Sometimes, stitches will be put in place. Depending on the placement of the extracted tooth, your dentist may place a space saver to keep the neighboring teeth from shifting into the gap.
Children’s Tooth Extractions Aftercare Tips
It’s completely normal for your child to experience some discomfort and swelling in their mouth for a few days after their surgery. To manage these symptoms, your dentist will likely encourage you to use:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers: In addition to any pain medication your dentist has prescribed, administering over-the-counter anti-inflammatory products as directed can help reduce pain and speed up the recovery process.
- Ice packs or cold compresses: Applying an ice pack or cold compress to the outside of the mouth for 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off can numb the discomfort and lower swelling.
- Soft, cold foods: Patients should only eat soft foods and avoid drinking through a straw for a few days after their surgery. Choosing cold, smooth foods like ice cream, smoothies, frozen yogurt, applesauce, milkshakes, and pudding can reduce inflammation and numb discomfort while boosting your child’s mood.
Hopefully, your child won’t need a baby tooth extraction. However, if they do, knowing what to expect and how to care for your little one after can help make the process less intimidating.
About the Author
Dr. Tera Pollock of Rowlett Dental Kids has been caring for the unique needs of growing smiles for nearly two decades. While she always aims to help keep children’s pearly whites healthy and in place, she offers gentle tooth extractions, emergency dentistry, and sedation options to ensure their oral health stays on track for life. If you’re concerned that your child may need a tooth extraction, she can be reached via her website or at (972) 475-0301.