What to Do If Your Child Has to Have a Tooth Pulled

Posted by Dr. John Paul Gallardo, DDS, PA
A child smiling showing her visible baby tooth in relation to pediatric tooth extractions.
A dentist might decide that a child's tooth needs to be pulled for a number of reasons.

For children between the ages of 6 and 12, losing their baby teeth is a rite of passage. During those years, most children lose all their baby teeth and grow their adult teeth. Typically, a child loses about 20 teeth by age 12. Healthy baby teeth are designed to fall out on their own. However, there are some instances when a tooth might need an extraction. In these cases, see a dentist immediately instead of forcibly removing the teeth at home.

What Is a Tooth Extraction?

Tooth extraction is a dental procedure designed to remove a tooth from its socket in the jaw bone. This can be necessary for various reasons, including dental decay, infection, or damage. Tooth removal can be done by simple extraction or surgical extraction, depending on the tooth’s position and condition. In some cases, a dentist or oral surgeon may need to make an incision in the gums to access and remove the tooth.

Identify the Reasons Why the Child Would Need a Tooth Pulled

Other teeth can become impacted besides wisdom teeth. A dentist may decide to surgically extract baby teeth for various reasons. In some cases, another tooth might be unable to break through the gum line, so the best course of action is to remove it surgically. The following are some of the most common reasons a child might need a tooth extraction procedure:

Dental Decay

In some cases, a child’s lack of dental care may result in significant decay. For example, eating too many sweets, not brushing regularly, and stuck food particles can severely deteriorate a child’s oral health.

A dentist can remove a decayed tooth to protect the other teeth around it. However, dentists will typically only pull a decayed baby tooth if there is no other way to save it.

After the extraction, the dentist might put a space saver where the decayed baby tooth was to ensure that the adult tooth will have enough room. This depends on how old the child is and how far they are from having the permanent tooth come in.

Infection or Abscess

Stuck food particles and bacteria can lead to infections and abscesses.

A child with a dental infection might find it hard to breathe if inflammation near the lower teeth blocks the airway. In worst-case scenarios, upper teeth abscesses can lead to inflammation reaching the brain.

Swelling and oral pain are the main symptoms of an infection, abscess, or even periodontal disease. If your child is experiencing these problems, make sure to take them to a dentist right away.

Damaged Teeth

Dentists might also pull a primary tooth if it is damaged due to an injury or accident. Trauma to the mouth can cause a baby tooth to crack or break. Some examples are:

  • Getting hit with a ball while playing sports
  • Getting knocked in the mouth while roughhousing
  • Falling and damaging a tooth
  • Knocking a tooth during a car accident

Depending on the severity of the damage, removing the tooth might be the best option.

Teeth Removal to Make Space

Finally, some baby teeth might need to be removed because they won’t fall out on their own. A child needs room in their mouth for permanent teeth to grow and crowed teeth prevent this.

Dentists typically remove the top canine teeth or the bottom incisors to create space for adult teeth.

Removing the baby teeth might make sufficient room for the permanent teeth to come in, but in some cases, additional dental work is needed to coax the canine or incisor into place.

Is This a Dental Emergency?

During these formative years, toothaches, swelling, and oral inflammation can turn out to be quite serious.

If not treated quickly, dental injuries and oral trauma can lead to gum disease, oral infections, and eventually, tooth loss.

Toothaches can also be severe enough to make children lose sleep and not eat properly. They might find it difficult to concentrate on their studies or play outside due to persistent oral pain.

If there are cavities and bacteria inside the mouth, they can cause the baby’s teeth to decay. Moreover, they can also progress to harm the permanent teeth and gums. It is always the best option to treat your child’s dental problems promptly and save them from oral health issues in the future.

Explain to Your Kid – Alternatives to Avoid Dental Issues

A dentist only extracts baby teeth in case of an emergency. Premature extraction can be dangerous, as it can lead to complications with adult teeth later on.

The best thing you can do is to teach your child about good dental habits. Make sure they brush daily and cut back on excessive sweets to help keep dental problems in check.

Adequate calcium intake, proper oral habits, and timely visits to the dentist can help your child stay away from dental issues that require tooth extraction.

Regular Oral Hygiene

Teach your child the importance of brushing their teeth at least twice a day and flossing daily. This can help remove plaque and prevent the buildup of bacteria that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

Regular Dental Checkups

Schedule regular dental checkups for your child, ideally every six months. This allows the dentist to monitor their oral health, identify any potential issues early on, and provide timely treatment.

Balanced Diet

A balanced diet is essential for maintaining good oral health in children. A diet that is rich in nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus can help to strengthen teeth and bones, while also promoting healthy gum tissue. On the other hand, a diet that is high in sugar and carbohydrates can lead to tooth decay and other dental problems.

Use of Fluoride Toothpaste

Using fluoride toothpaste can help strengthen your child’s tooth enamel and protect against decay. Encourage your child to use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste when brushing their teeth, and ensure they spit it out afterward to prevent swallowing excess fluoride.

Avoid Sugary and Sticky Foods

Sugary and sticky foods can contribute to tooth decay by providing a breeding ground for bacteria. Limit your child’s consumption of these foods, and encourage them to rinse their mouth with water after eating to help remove any remaining food particles.

Use of Mouth Guards for Sports

If your child participates in sports or activities where there is a risk of injury to the mouth, consider having them wear a mouthguard. This can help protect their teeth from damage and prevent the need for tooth extractions due to accidents.

How to Get Your Child Ready for a Tooth Extraction

If your child isn’t a fan of going to the dentist, then he or she probably won’t be thrilled to have a tooth pulled, either. Being mentally prepared before the dental visit can help to keep children calm during the procedure.

Help Them Understand Anesthesia

Explain the procedure to your child. If your child is going to receive general anesthesia, you can tell them that they will be asleep and won’t feel anything while the dentist takes out the problem tooth. If the extraction only involves a local anesthetic, explain that your child will be awake but won’t feel anything during the process.

Provide Comfort

Let them know that you’ll be right there by their side during the whole thing. You might want to bring along a special toy or stuffed animal to comfort your child during the process.

Discuss Sedation

Sedation is available, but the specific options available vary according to the child’s age. Appropriate sedation can help a child feel less stressed or anxious during the teeth extraction procedure. Once they are calm, the dentist can begin the removal process.

The Teeth Removal Procedure

The entire process can be described in the following steps:

  1. The dentist will start by numbing the area around the tooth with a local anesthetic to ensure your child doesn’t feel any pain during the procedure.
  2. Once the area is numb, the dentist will use special tools to gently loosen and remove the tooth from its socket in the gum.
  3. Depending on the complexity of the extraction, the dentist may need to make a small incision in the gum to access the tooth more easily.
  4. If necessary, stitches may be used to close up any incisions made during the procedure.
  5. After the tooth has been successfully removed, your child will be given instructions on how to care for their mouth during the healing process, such as avoiding hard or chewy foods and keeping the area clean to prevent infection.

Your child may experience some discomfort or swelling after the extraction, but this can usually be managed with over-the-counter pain medication and ice packs applied to the outside of their cheek.

By following these steps and providing support and comfort to your child throughout the process, you can help them feel more at ease about having a tooth pulled and ensure a smooth recovery afterward.

After the Tooth Is Pulled

Usually, the dentist will pack the area of the extraction with a piece of gauze, which absorbs any blood and helps with healing. Tell your child not to chew on it, swallow it, or try to take it out of their mouth. Help them keep the gauze over the surgical area for at least two hours to staunch any bleeding.

Start slowly when it is time to eat after surgery. About an hour after the procedure, start giving your child clear liquids, such as water, soup, or fruit juices. After several hours, your child might be able to tolerate something a bit heavier, such as ice cream or yogurt.

Continue to stick to soft foods for several more days. Your child should avoid any foods that can irritate the surgical site, such as spicy or hot foods, salty snacks, and acidic foods until it’s well healed.

Post-operative Care and Recovery Tips

After your child has had a tooth pulled, it’s important to follow these postoperative care tips for your healing process:

  1. Encourage gentle rinsing: Have your child rinse their mouth gently with warm salt water or an antiseptic mouthwash to help keep the extraction site clean and prevent infection.
  2. Avoid hard or sticky foods: Stick to soft foods for the first few days after the extraction to avoid irritating the area. Avoid crunchy, chewy, or sticky foods that could dislodge blood clots or cause discomfort.
  3. Use pain medication as needed: Over-the-counter pain medication can help manage any discomfort your child may experience after the extraction. Follow the dosing instructions carefully.
  4. Apply ice packs: If there is swelling in the area, apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel to the outside of your child’s cheek for 20 minutes on, and 20 minutes off.
  5. Monitor for signs of infection: Keep an eye out for any signs of infection, such as increased pain, swelling, redness, or pus at the extraction site. Contact your dentist if you notice any of these symptoms.
  6. Follow-up with dental appointments: Your child may need a follow-up appointment with their dentist to ensure that the extraction site is healing properly and there are no complications.
  7. Practice good oral hygiene: Encourage your child to continue brushing and flossing their teeth regularly but be gentle around the extraction site until it has fully healed.

By following these postoperative care and recovery tips, you can help ensure that your child heals quickly and comfortably after having a tooth pulled.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tooth Extraction in Kids

Contact Dr. John Paul Gallardo Today

Dear John Paul, Just a note to let you know that N is recovering quite well. Words cannot express how grateful we are for your incredible kindness and generosity. We will never forget what you and your staff have done for N. May God bless you and your family

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Other Available Alternatives

A dentist only extracts baby teeth in case of an emergency. It is dangerous to opt for premature extraction as this can lead to complications with adult teeth later on.

In case of cavity risks, the best thing to do is to teach your child about good dental habits. Making sure they brush daily and cutting back on excessive sweets can help keep dental problems in check.

Adequate calcium intake, proper oral habits, and timely visits to the dentist can help your child stay away from dental issues that cause the need for immediate teeth extraction.

Contact Dr. John Paul Gallardo Today

If you are concerned about the state of your child’s teeth or want to know more about your options when it comes to tooth extraction, Dr. John Paul Gallardo is happy to help. He provides routine extractions and the removal of impacted teeth in Miami. He can examine your child’s teeth and recommend the best option for their overall well-being. For an appointment, call 305-447-1447 today!