What Is a Pediatric Tooth Extraction?
A tooth extraction is a procedure in which a tooth is surgically removed. The procedure is generally very quick. In fact, usually, the majority of a child’s tooth extraction appointment consists of walking your child through the procedure, numbing the area around the tooth, and making sure the child is comfortable. The extraction itself typically only takes about a minute.
Most primary tooth extractions can be performed with local anesthesia alone, or with a combination of local anesthesia and nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”).
When Should a Child Have Teeth Removed?
Common reasons for tooth extractions in children include infection, crowding issues, and failure of baby teeth to fall out on their own.
Beneath the hard outer layer of a tooth lies a soft, gelatinous substance called “dental pulp.” Deep cavities and dental trauma can damage a child’s dental pulp and lead to infection, resulting in tooth pain, tooth sensitivity, redness and/or swelling. If the infection is not treated, it can spread beyond the tooth, potentially resulting in life-threatening conditions.
When primary (“baby”) teeth are crowded together, they can sometimes prevent permanent teeth from coming in correctly. For example, sometimes two baby teeth are crowded into the space that a single permanent tooth will need once it comes in. If a child naturally loses one of those baby teeth, but the replacement permanent tooth cannot erupt properly because the other baby tooth is in the way, that second baby tooth may need to be extracted.
Permanent teeth can also present crowding issues and require removal. Sometimes a child’s jaw simply is not large enough to accommodate all of his or her permanent teeth. When this happens, one or more permanent teeth may be removed for orthodontic purposes.
Failure of Baby Teeth to Fall Out
Sometimes, a child’s permanent tooth will grow in behind the primary tooth it is replacing, rather than pushing up from under the primary tooth. Occasionally, this will prevent the primary tooth from becoming loose and falling out on its own.
What to Do After the Procedure
There may be some discomfort after a pediatric tooth extraction, and applying ice to the area will provide pain relief as well as keep swelling to a minimum. A small piece of gauze will be applied to the area of the pediatric tooth extraction that should be held in place long enough for the blood to clot. Bleeding is common, but may last for only about a day. Keeping your child’s mouth clean is important during healing. Your child can rinse the mouth with salt water several times per day.
Children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used for pain relief if needed. Your child should eat soft foods, limit sucking (such as not using straws for drinking liquids), and limit any physical activity for the rest of the day. If any additional swelling occurs, or your child shows signs of a fever, call the dentist immediately as this could signal an infection.