Dental benefits

Questions to ask before your child has a tooth pulled

When a baby tooth falls out, it can be exciting. After all, it means a visit — and possibly a reward — from the Tooth Fairy. While most baby teeth come out naturally or with just a little wiggling, there are times when young children must have baby teeth removed or older children need permanent teeth pulled.

Here are some questions to ask the dentist to help you and your children know what to expect with a baby tooth or permanent tooth extraction. 

Why is the tooth being extracted?

One study showed that over half of tooth extractions for children ages 3 to 13 were due to cavities.1 But there are other reasons, too.

Baby teeth are removed when they aren’t emerging on their own or due to injury. Permanent teeth can also be removed due to injury or when they are not properly aligned, which leads to overcrowding. 

For permanent teeth, dental implants are an option when a tooth is lost due to injury or accident. However, the procedure usually doesn’t take place until a child’s facial development is complete (about age 16 for girls and age 18 for boys).

How will the tooth be removed?

A tooth extraction can be performed by your dentist or an oral surgeon. A simple extraction involves removing a visible tooth by loosening it and then pulling it with dental instruments. A surgical extraction is usually performed when a tooth has broken under the gumline or has yet to fully emerge. 

Will anesthesia be used?

In most cases, local anesthesia that numbs the mouth is used to reduce discomfort. Occasionally, sedation or general anesthesia that allows children to sleep through the extraction may be recommended. 

Discuss options with your dentist or oral surgeon. The American Dental Association provides a list of questions about anesthesia and sedation

What care should I provide after the procedure?

To help your child heal, make sure to follow all instructions from your dentist or oral surgeon closely and keep these care tips in mind:

• A protective blood clot will form at the site where the tooth was extracted. Keep your child from using a straw or swishing liquids for at least 24 hours to keep this healthy clot in place and prevent infection.

• Serve soft foods that aren’t too hot or cold. Soup (let cool before serving), scrambled eggs and applesauce are all good choices.

• If your child has swollen cheeks, use an ice pack every few hours for 15 minutes at a time.

• Remind your child not to touch the area where the tooth was pulled.

• After 24 hours, have your child gargle with warm saltwater several times each day to keep the socket clean of food and debris.

• Your child should continue to brush twice a day and floss daily. Make sure he or she is gentle and avoids the site of the missing tooth for at least a week.

Looking for something that’s easy for your child to eat after having a tooth removed? Try our recipe for the creamiest, cheesiest scrambled eggs they’ve ever tasted.