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What to Do When Your Young Child Needs Teeth Pulled

This mouth is too small for the adult teeth to come in properly. A lateral incisor and both canines needed to be pulled out.
This mouth is too small for the adult teeth to come in properly. A lateral incisor and both canines needed to be pulled out. | Source

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.)

Look at the size of the roots on those canines! No wonder it hurts to get teeth pulled.
Look at the size of the roots on those canines! No wonder it hurts to get teeth pulled. | Source

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.

These cottony dental pads look a little like cigarettes. Try not to laugh, even if your child looks like he belongs in Fight Club with a swollen lip and a bloody "cigarette" between his teeth.
These cottony dental pads look a little like cigarettes. Try not to laugh, even if your child looks like he belongs in Fight Club with a swollen lip and a bloody "cigarette" between his teeth. | Source

Pictures of Tooth Extraction Healing

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Forty-eight hours after the tooth extraction, the holes are starting to heal. The hole for the incisor is almost gone, since that tooth had been wiggly (it's root was partially dissolved already).One week after extraction, the holes are healing nicely, and there is no more aching or soreness.At two weeks, the hole for the wiggly incisor is completely healed, and the spaces where the canines had been are almost completely healed.View of smile at two weeks after extraction. The adult central incisors are still out of place, but now there is space to begin moving them.
Forty-eight hours after the tooth extraction, the holes are starting to heal. The hole for the incisor is almost gone, since that tooth had been wiggly (it's root was partially dissolved already).
Forty-eight hours after the tooth extraction, the holes are starting to heal. The hole for the incisor is almost gone, since that tooth had been wiggly (it's root was partially dissolved already). | Source
One week after extraction, the holes are healing nicely, and there is no more aching or soreness.
One week after extraction, the holes are healing nicely, and there is no more aching or soreness. | Source
At two weeks, the hole for the wiggly incisor is completely healed, and the spaces where the canines had been are almost completely healed.
At two weeks, the hole for the wiggly incisor is completely healed, and the spaces where the canines had been are almost completely healed. | Source
View of smile at two weeks after extraction. The adult central incisors are still out of place, but now there is space to begin moving them.
View of smile at two weeks after extraction. The adult central incisors are still out of place, but now there is space to begin moving them. | Source

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.

Comments 10 comments

LauraGT profile image

LauraGT 4 years ago from MA

I haven't had to deal with this yet, but am glad to have this hub as a resource in case I do. My 5 year old has had 2 fillings, and I think it was much worse for me than for him! Thanks for the info!


Brainy Bunny profile image

Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania Author

We've unfortunately had to deal with it with both our kids. My 6-year-old son's teeth were yanked just the other day (that's his crooked mouth in the photos), and my daughter had two teeth pulled when she was just 3. That was much worse, since it was an urgent extraction for trauma (she tripped and fell on her face). But aside from a little achiness, my son hasn't had any problems. Thank goodness!


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

I'm worried about this with my six year old. His adult teeth came in behind his baby teeth - fortunately one baby tooth just fell out on its own but his mouth is a mess. He sees the dentist again in June, so we'll see what the dentist wants to do. His upper teeth have lots of space, but the lower ones look a lot like your son's!


Brainy Bunny profile image

Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania Author

Hi, Leah. That's exactly what happened to my son. In November his adult bottom teeth started to come in behind his baby teeth. He didn't lose the front baby teeth until January. By the time we saw the dentist two weeks ago, his mouth was a mess. The dentist recommended a trip to the orthodontist for a second opinion; the orthodontist agreed his teeth were a mess, and so back to the dentist for the extractions. It has been a busy (and expensive!) month. Good luck with your son's mouth!


theclevercat profile image

theclevercat 4 years ago from Massachusetts

Jeepers, poor kid! But it looks like his mouth is healing up nicely. And he also looks pleased enough to be showing it off, at least. :^)


Brainy Bunny profile image

Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania Author

Well, he's a bit achy on one side of his mouth, but other than that he's doing great. Kids are very resilient!


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

Oh, no... that is exactly what my son is like! His first baby tooth did fall out on its own, but his adult tooth is nearly all the way up and out of place. I suppose I better start budgeting for a few dental procedures now!


Brainy Bunny profile image

Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania Author

We've found that it pays to make friends with our dentists, since we don't have dental insurance! Dentists tend to offer more discounts and flexibility in payment than doctors do, especially if you don't have insurance. If the bill is large, ask politely for a discount, especially if you've been a patient for a long time. what's the worst that can happen?

In the meantime, maybe you should call your dentist and see if your son's appointment should be moved up. They may say no, but they may be glad to be informed of any funky things happening in your son's mouth, so they can note it in his chart. I didn't do that, and I felt weird every time I saw the shark teeth in my son's mouth.


Ann 7 weeks ago

My 5 year old is getting her teeth pulled out next week, I'm really worried about it.


Brainy Bunny profile image

Brainy Bunny 7 weeks ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania Author

It's normal to be worried, but try not to communicate that to your child. Be calm and positive about it, and she will have a lot less anxiety. Good luck!

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