Did you know that ‘quick fixes’ to pull out your child’s loose baby tooth may cause more damage?
Having a tooth pulled out or extracted has been one of the greatest fears for most people, especially if they had a bad experience. What more for a child?
It becomes even more frightening when adults playfully use threatening remarks on a child “We will pull out all your teeth if you are naughty or don’t eat your food!”
For a child, when the time comes for them to have their tooth extracted, recollection of such innocent threats becomes a reality and this may create fear.
Myth 1: The baby tooth is loose. I have to pull it out immediately.
Loose baby teeth are removed to make way for the new succeeding permanent teeth.
As your child grows and develops, their baby teeth slowly become loose as the succeeding permanent teeth make their way up. The permanent teeth will gently push the baby teeth from their roots below and erode them (resorption) until the baby teeth are loose enough, ready to fall out.
As dentists, we love to see the baby teeth taking its natural course and falling out on its own. Only under special circumstances when the baby tooth is loose and hurts upon chewing, or when it is firm and blocking the growth of the permanent tooth, that we recommend the removal. The dentist has to weigh certain factors on what is the most beneficial method for the child.
Myth 2: If it is not pulled out immediately, the permanent tooth will be crooked
This is not true. Most of the time, crowding of the permanent teeth is more often caused by genetic factors such as inheriting large teeth from one parent and a small jaw from the other. In such cases, whether the loose baby teeth are taken out early or later, crowding or crooked teeth will occur.
Loose teeth, especially the front ones, do sometimes get dislodged through an accidental fall when they are knocked. They can also fall out during a meal or when munching on hard foods and fruits. These baby teeth that are knocked out will have short, resorbed roots as they are about to fall out. Parents sometimes fear that the roots are broken and left behind. We do encourage children who have loose teeth not to munch on fruits and hard food.
Children are encouraged to also play a big role in assisting their loose teeth to fall out. We instruct and encourage them to use their fingers or tongue to “rock and roll” the loose teeth a couple of times a day. This helps to loosen further the baby teeth and dislodge them. It’s a painless process. However, sometimes it works and other times it does not.
Myth 3: It’s okay to just yank the baby tooth out
A common practice is to pretend to look at the loose tooth and then suddenly grab it and yank it out. Another home technique is to tie a thread or dental floss to the tooth and pull it out. I have had experiences of children developing a tremendous phobia for the dental floss once they have experienced its use in such a manner on their teeth.
Most adults do not realise that although the baby tooth may appear to be very loose, it is still attached to the gums which have a tremendous amount of attachment and pain fibres. The “forceful tug” with the fingers or thread, tears the tooth from gums and causes intense pain and bleeding.
This is indeed a most unpleasant and fearful experience for the child. I have always advised parents not to allow any adults in the family to attempt such mean tricks on the child as they cause permanent fears in a child for dental care.
Always consult a dentist and allow him or her to manage it so that it becomes a “painless and pleasant experience.” Through examination and assessment, your child can have a pleasant experience, preventing any possible life-long fears of the dentist.
By Dr Lim Swee Teck, Specialist in Pediatric Dentistry at T32 Junior
One Orchard Boulevard, 17th Floor
Camden Medical Centre
Tel: (65) 6733 1388
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