When Pulling Teeth, Beware of Dry Mouth, Dry Sockets and Bad Breath
SUMMARY: In childhood, pulling baby teeth is a rite of passage. At first it can be a little scary, but most kids get used to it, and many look forward to their next empty socket - and visit from the tooth fairy. Of course, some tykes need help with their first loose tooth, and that means being prepared as a parent to deal with blood, germs, dry mouth and bad breath.
Posted: June 20, 2012In childhood, pulling baby teeth is a rite of passage. At first it can be a little scary, but most kids get used to it, and many look forward to their next empty socket - and visit from the tooth fairy. Of course, some tykes need help with their first loose tooth, and that means being prepared as a parent to deal with blood, germs, dry mouth and bad breath.
According to a recent post at Nanny.Net, it's not too tough to help your child pull his or her first tooth. To start, you'll need to wash your hands, get some gauze ready and keep your little one relaxed...
Then comes the actual pulling
This can require some wiggling or apple-eating. (Ditch the string. It's no better than using your hands.) Finally, the source recommends putting pressure on the empty socket after the tooth comes out to stanch the blood flow, then applying ice in order to numb any little aches your child may feel.
However, things don't end there. What many parents don't realize is that a newly pulled tooth presents a unique opening for infections, dry mouth and bad breath. In large part, this is due to a side effect familiar to nearly anyone who's had their wisdom teeth pulled: a dry socket.
A clot, lost
Dry sockets occur when a blood clot, the one that fills the hole in lieu of a tooth, accidentally falls out. This is most common among teens and young adults, whose wisdom teeth removals often leave large, tenuous scabs at the back of the jaws. A little too much negative pressure - say, from sucking on a straw - can pop one of these clots out.
What results is a dry socket, in which the nerves and sometimes even the bone is exposed, with no healing tissue to cover them. Large dry sockets can take months to close and usually require irrigation after every meal to prevent food particles from lodging in them and festering.
That said, dry sockets also may occur in kids who have lost a baby tooth, especially one that has an unusually long root or that has been pulled prematurely. This oral health problem is related to dry mouth, in that both can cause irritation, halitosis and gum infections.
Bad breath is a typical symptom
One of the most common signs of a dry socket, other than gum pain, is bad breath. This comes from bacterial invasion of the socket, which leads to inflammation and odor production. However, treating a dry socket isn't as simple as gargling with an alcohol-based mouthwash. In fact, that's exactly what you want to avoid.
Rinsing with alcohol is guaranteed to cause excruciating pain. Rather than leaving your child in tears, consider giving them an alcohol-free specialty breath freshening mouthwash, one that oxygenates the gums. This will eliminate microbes and soothe delicate tissues in the socket.
Another solid treatment is prevention. The Mayo Clinic notes that preexisting oral infections, like gingivitis or canker sores, increase the risk of a dry socket, as does poor dental health. The organization recommends using a specialty antibacterial mouthwash before any tooth extraction to reduce the likelihood of this painful problem.
So, for best results, try adding the following steps to your child's tooth pulling routine:
- Have them gargle with an alcohol-free mouthwash twice a day for a least a week before pulling a tooth.
- After the tooth is out, gently rinse the mouth again with such a product.
- Have them eat soft foods.
- Most importantly, play the waiting game. If a tooth is a little wiggly but refuses to pop out, give it time. It will gradually loosen on its own.