While most baby teeth come and go without major incident, sometimes those little teeth can be stuck or otherwise lead to bigger problems. As a parent or guardian, you want to help your little one through this rite of passage with as few complications as possible, but teeth don't always cooperate. That's when you need to make some major decisions on how to handle the minor eruptions constantly going on in your child's mouth.
Why The Baby Teeth Need To Move Out
If your child is lucky, baby teeth will fall out just as the new, adult teeth erupt through the gums; however, when this process isn't so timely, surrounding teeth may become misaligned. Since there's simply not enough room in there for the baby teeth and incoming grown-up teeth, one or more is forced out of the way and usually into an area it shouldn't be. This can lead to future issues with overcrowding and, for the time being, make for uncomfortable chewing. Baby teeth are actually placeholders for the future, permanent pearly whites, so when that place isn't held or is held for too long, complications arise that should definitely involve the dentist.
When You Should Pull And When You Shouldn't
Kids shouldn't be encouraged to work out teeth that aren't ready yet, but once the tooth is mostly dislodged, it's generally safe to help it on its way out. While you don't want your child tying their loose tooth to the dog's tail or a friend's bicycle wheel, you can teach them a proper method of pulling, by setting an example and providing instructions, or by doing the job yourself.
- Wash your hands thoroughly and ask anyone participating to do the same.
- Ask your child to sit in a comfortable chair and maintain a steady position.
- Gently wiggle the loose tooth back and forth, giving it a final twist to separate it from the gums.
- Immediately pop a gauze pad over the empty space, holding it firmly in place to stop any bleeding.
- Keep the area under 24-hour observation, checking for excessive redness, tooth fragments, and swelling or discomfort, which you should notify your child's dentist about right away.
- Save the tooth for a fair exchange with the tooth fairy or for scientific curiosity.
You should never pull a tooth before it's time or if anything unusual is observed, such as pain, swelling, and/or indications of infection. If ever you opt to pull and experience resistance from the tooth itself or your child, hold off for a few days or until both are really ready. Teeth should only be pulled by the calm, clean hands of someone who knows what they're doing and never in a rowdy or uncontrolled manner. No further action should be needed, as the new tooth will grow in by itself, usually without incident. Avoid using medication on the area unless advised to do so by your dentist, as topical remedies can be hazardous to youngsters and any condition causing problems should be professionally evaluated anyway.
When You Should Let A Dentist Take Over
If your child's loose teeth have been lingering in their mouth for a while, the area may be so tender that it's not brushed properly. Eventually, the surrounding gums could become infected, leading to an abscess. Keep checking on the lingering loose tooth and carefully brush around the area to prevent infection. If you notice redness or your child complains of pain, it's probably time to check in with the dentist.
Also, since adult teeth can try to force themselves in between stubborn baby teeth, if the loose baby tooth has been hanging around and you see that other teeth are coming in around it, put a call in to your dental office. Baby teeth that don't fall out on time can create other problems, beyond infection and discomfort.
If Your Child Requires An Extraction
Once in a while, a baby tooth will need professional help to finally come out of the mouth it grew up in. Hopefully, your child's dentist can remove the tooth with no more than a topical numbing agent and a few words of encouragement; however, sedated extraction is sometimes necessary in the event of severe decay or even dental anxiety. Depending on your child's age and disposition, an extraction can be a big deal that requires special attention, but even if they're older and handle it seamlessly, you'll need to stock up on soft foods, like applesauce, yogurt, and your child's favorite soup.
Consoling Children With Tooth-Related Anxiety
Visiting the dentist over a problematic baby tooth can be a scary thing, especially for a younger child and even more so if their mouth is hurting. Emphasize how the appointment is going to end the pain and allow your child to resume a normal course with eating. Hold their hand, let them bring their most trusted stuffed animal friend along, and sing their favorite song to soothe and distract. Dental anxiety is not uncommon with children, and yours should get over it, given time and positive experiences with your local office.
Baby teeth may be small, but they're a big deal to you and your family. Go ahead and be the tooth fairy for as long as your child believes and know how to handle the little complications that may arise as baby teeth come in and fall out. Keep your family dentist apprised of any worrisome developments and don't forget to save a baby tooth or two for the little box of treasures you keep that represents your kid's time growing up. One day, you'll all look back and laugh at the tiny teeth that caused so much turmoil.