Tooth Troubles – What to Expect When Your Child Needs Dental Work


Just brush your children’s teeth and they won’t need any dental work. Right? Wrong!

As a former dental hygienist, I have strict rules about tooth care in my house. My kids take care of their teeth. That’s why I was surprised at their last dental cleaning appointment. They both needed dental work. Shocking! One of my son’s adult molars came in sideways and a baby molar blocked its path into his mouth. My daughter had an adult molar come in with incomplete development. In other words, they both had dental issues that no amount of tooth brushing could have prevented. My kids were nervous about the dental work, but I did my best to stay positive and upbeat.

Here is what to expect when your child needs dental work.

My son had a tooth extracted. In other words, the dentist pulled his tooth.

The dentist first discovered my son’s stuck tooth on an x-ray. It clearly showed that his adult molar was coming in sideways and stuck in place by the baby molar right in front of it. The dentist noticed this problem at my son’s regular cleaning appointment and referred us to an orthodontist. A few weeks later, we had a consultation with the orthodontist and made a treatment plan. The baby molar needed to be removed so the adult molar could come in. Then my son would need brackets to move the molar back to its proper spot in the mouth so that the other adult teeth could have room to come in properly. One sideways tooth requires a lot of dental work to correct!

boy receiving dental work, dentist

Sometimes your regular dentist will pull a child’s tooth right in your regular dental office. However, baby molars can be tricky because they have multiple roots which can easily break. As a result, my dentist referred my son to an oral surgeon. Luckily, my dental office shared the x-rays and dental information with the oral surgeon, so we didn’t need a separate consultation appointment. I received instructions that due to the anesthesia, my child couldn’t have any food for 12 hours before the procedure, so no breakfast for him that morning!

At the appointment, we met the oral surgeon and his assistant.

They examined my son and explained the procedure. They felt it was best to put my son to sleep for the tooth removal, and I agreed. To start the procedure, they put a mask on my son and used gas to put him under. He got to choose a scent to put in the mask. Apparently mint was gross, so I don’t recommend choosing that scent. My son had a fit and had to change to a cherry scent. After putting my son to sleep, the oral surgeon and his assistant sent me out to the waiting room for the procedure.

child receiving dental work, dentist

After a short time, the oral surgeon finished the procedure and I went back to my son. He was in the process of waking back up. He was grumpy and out of sorts for a while. I had parked right by the back door and the dental assistant helped me get my son into the car. He fell asleep in the car and then went back to his room and took a nap as soon as we got home. The office sent home some gauze for him to bite on to help stop the bleeding, but my son wouldn’t leave it in for very long. The bleeding did stop on its own, though.

My son healed very quickly from his dental work. He ate some soft foods for lunch that day and then informed me that he was ready for pasta that night for dinner. I sent him back to school the next day and he was fine. Just beware that tooth removals can be expensive, even if you have dental insurance!

My daughter had a filling in her molar.

At my daughter’s regular dental cleaning, the dentist noticed that one of her adult molars had some developmental defects in the enamel. Since the tooth formed incorrectly, it was much more susceptible to decay. The dentist recommended waiting a couple months to give the tooth time to fully erupt into her mouth and then filling it. Like my son, she couldn’t eat breakfast the morning of her appointment to avoid the nitrous oxide gas making her nauseous.

child at dentist wearing mask for nitrous oxide, laughing gas

My daughter’s appointment was with her regular dentist at his office. The dentist started by examining her teeth and explaining the procedure. Unlike my son, my daughter wasn’t put to sleep for her dental work. Instead, she got to pick a scent for her gas (bubblegum!) and it just helped her relax. After she was relaxed, anesthesia was injected into her gums around the tooth that needed the filling. That was the hardest part of the entire appointment. She flinched and didn’t like it, but the shots were over quickly. Then the dental assistant put on a “raincoat” over the tooth to keep it dry while working on it.

The dentist and dental assistant were fantastic at describing everything with words that my daughter could understand. For example, they called one of the tools a, “Bumpy toothbrush” and let her feel it on her hand before they used it in her mouth. They avoided using scary words like “shot” and “hurt.” Also, they both used friendly, positive voices, which really reassured my daughter.

When her tooth was numb, the dentist filled the defective molar.

The filling itself is a white material, so it’s not noticeable in her mouth. Since my daughter had deep grooves in her other three adult molars, the dental assistant applied sealants on them while we were there. Sealants are a protective coating for the chewing surfaces of molars. A dental professional cleans the tooth, paints on the sealant (much like nail polish), and then hardens it with a special light. Sealants are a great way to prevent cavities and can be applied at a regular dental cleaning appointment. They are completely painless!

My daughter was starving after her appointment, so we stopped for a snack right afterward. Then I took her back to school. She just had to be careful while chewing for a few hours until the anesthesia wore off so she wouldn’t bite her cheek by accident. She said that the filling felt a little bit funny at first, but she quickly got used to it and has had no further problems. Sometimes a filling causes pain when you bite down, but your dentist can easily adjust that by grinding down any high points on the filling. Fillings are not as expensive as tooth removals, but they will still cost more than routine cleaning appointments.

Even though dental work can be a little scary, it’s best to do it right away. Don’t give a little problem a chance to develop into a big problem. A little dental work now can lead to a lifelong beautiful smile for your child!



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