As parents and caregivers of children, we take great care to ensure the dental well-being of our special family members. We attempt to foster good nutritional habits as well as good oral health habits that will carry them through their lives. Sometimes, however, oral health proves to be challenging despite our best efforts. Genetic predisposition as well as circumstantial conditions result in the need to occasionally extract teeth in order to protect and honor the overall health needs of the oral cavity in our children.
The most common reason for needing to remove a tooth in a child is decay which has proceeded into the delicate roots of the tooth or damage to a tooth that cannot be successfully retained without risk of infection. Other reasons include pediatric gum disease, severe crowding, or hanging baby teeth which do not naturally shed from the gum line providing a complicated situation for adult teeth trying to emerge.
Do Baby Teeth Matter?
While you may have heard it said that baby teeth don’t matter as much as adult teeth, the truth is that the health of baby teeth is important to ensure that adult teeth can emerge through the gum line to take their intended places without being obstructed or prematurely decayed by bacteria originating in the mouth.
If your dentist has suggested that your child have one or more of their teeth extracted, they’ve likely explained their rationale. This is important, particularly if the decision to remove a baby tooth is a preventative measure rather that one which is urgent (as in the case of painful decay). As a parent or caregiver, you should feel educated and confident about the decision to remove a child’s tooth, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t invoke concern. We encourage all parents to engage in dialogue with their child’s dentists about how to best support their child’s specific needs during their visit, taking into account previous experiences and any additional considerations such as sensory processing disorders.
Concerned About Your Child’s Tooth Removal?
Many of our parents express concern at the prospect of removing a child’s tooth, which is quite understandable. Fortunately, as pediatric dentists, we are experts at helping parents and children feel comfortable throughout the process.
Our team members and dental professionals make it their mission to help young patients feel cared for and calm throughout dental services and procedures. We have a large ‘toolbox’ of resources available to assist us in this process from calming or distraction techniques to medical sedation where required.
After carefully reviewing the results of digital X-rays, your dentist will begin the process by applying a small amount of numbing gel to the soft tissue of the mouth where a localized anesthetic will be injected. This serves to allow the needle to penetrate the tissues without pain.
Once the tooth in question has been numbed, the tooth is removed by using forceps to detach the root ligaments from the gum and bone socket. This process is quite short in duration and most procedures do not require any more than this. Sometimes, however, difficult removals require some gum tissue to be removed in order to free the tooth from its position. In this case, additional sedation may be discretionally offered.
You may have concerns about caring for your child’s mouth following an extraction, but with some quick tips, your child’s mouth will heal in no time. After removing the tooth, your dentist will place a folded square of gauze onto the site and encourage your child to bite down gently on the gauze to absorb the blood and promote the formation of a protective blood clot at the site. We recommend changing the gauze every 20 minutes until bleeding stops. If your child is uncomfortable, they can be offered an over-the-counter pain reliever such as Tylenol.
Encourage your child to hold an ice pack on the outside of the cheek if discomfort persists, as this will decrease the inflammation in the affected soft tissues. Do not encourage your child to spit or drink from a straw as the sucking motion could dislodge the important blood clot in the socket, leading to a painful condition referred to as dry socket.
It is important to encourage children not to eat or drink until feeling has returned to the mouth. Children who are still under the influence of a local anesthetic are at risk of biting their cheeks, lips or tongue unknowingly which can lead to increased discomfort when the numbness subsides.
Once feeling has returned to the mouth and lips, children can safely be offered cool drinks and soft foods for the first 24 hours. Continue to brush the teeth in the mouth but avoid the area where the tooth was removed.
If at any time following the extraction your child develops a fever, chills, pain or swelling, please contact our office.
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