What to Do When Your Young Child Needs Teeth Pulled
A lucky few kids go through life with perfect teeth, never needing more dental care than floss and an occasional cleaning. However, many kids have teeth and mouths that need a lot of attention, including scary-sounding procedures like tooth extraction. There are many reasons your child could need baby teeth pulled, including accidental trauma, cavities, and stubborn baby teeth blocking adult teeth from coming in properly. Here are a few guidelines to help your child (and you!) get through an unpleasant procedure with a minimum of pain and fuss.
See a Pediatric Dentist
If you take your child to the same dentist you see, he or she may not be getting the best care possible. Pediatric dentists have an additional two years of schooling in which they focus on the growth and development of teeth. They also learn how to help children be comfortable and deal with their fear and anxiety. While a good general dentist will probably do a fine job, a pediatric dentist specializes in children's teeth, has the right size equipment, and knows how to put your child at ease.
Besides, pediatric dentists' offices have children's books, TV, and video games to keep kids busy while they're waiting. Fun!
Be Honest but Calm with Your Child
You may have had a bad experience with having wisdom teeth extracted as an adult, or you may remember getting baby teeth pulled without the full complement of anesthetics in use today. Do not let your child see your anxiety! (It is perfectly acceptable to freak out a little after your child has gone to bed, though; no one wants to see her own child in pain.)
Tell your child that it may hurt a little at first, but that the dentist will give him medicine to make him numb, and afterwards he will just be a little sore. Remind him that you will be there to hold his hand (unless it's a very complicated surgery, in which case the dentist will put him under anyway). Promise him a small treat if he's brave; I don't generally recommend bribery for kids, but the thought of a couple of hours watching TV and ice cream for dinner may be just what your child needs to make it through. (And frankly, he won't be ready for much else right away.)
Follow Your Dentist's Instructions
During the procedure, the dentist will tell you where to stand so you aren't in his or her way. As long as the extraction is uncomplicated, you will most likely be able to stay with your child and hold his hand. The dentist will give your child anesthesia of some sort. Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) is a common option, as is a numbing shot like Novocaine. Toddlers, special needs children, and children who need half a dozen teeth or more removed at once may need general anesthesia.
Pictures of Tooth Extraction HealingClick thumbnail to view full-size
Baby Tooth Extraction Aftercare
Afterwards, your child is likely to be a drooly mess for several hours. Take him home and set him up in front of the TV, or cuddle with him and read to him for a while. He will probably have to bite down on a special pad that resembles a tampon without a string to stop the flow of blood. Your dentist will give you a pack or two to take home. Change them when they are sodden, or about every half hour for the first two hours after the extraction. Consider tucking a paper towel in your child's shirt as a bib so his shirt doesn't get wet and uncomfortable or stained.
Once your child's mouth regains some sensation, he can take out the pads. The blood clot in his mouth is likely to be bright red and angry-looking. Don't touch it or do anything to dislodge it. That means no sucking through a straw or chewing tough foods for a couple of days. Yogurt, applesauce, and bananas are foods that are good after getting baby teeth pulled out.
Your child's mouth may continue to be sore for a few days. Consult with your dentist if necessary; he will probably recommend ibuprofen.
Make Sure the Tooth Fairy Comes
Depending on your child's age, this may be his first chance to experience the tooth fairy, or he may be concerned that the tooth fairy won't come because his teeth didn't fall out naturally. Allay his concerns and make sure the tooth fairy does something special.