If your child needs a tooth pulled, you’re probably wondering, “Do tooth extractions hurt?” We’ll put your fears to rest right here.

In popular media, it’s common to see people dreading dental procedures and leaving the dentist’s chair with swollen cheeks, ice packs, and heavy painkillers. If this is what you’re used to, it makes sense that you’d be nervous about a tooth extraction! It looks painful, right? 

But how realistic is that pain? Do tooth extractions hurt that badly, or are they dramatized for entertainment value? 

Keep in mind that everyone is different, so different people have different pain tolerances. That said, we’re here to offer you a brief guide about the pain associated with dental extractions so you can prepare your child.

Read on to learn more. 

First: Consider Why You’re Getting the Extraction

Many people get so worked up over the idea of a painful tooth extraction that they forget why they’re getting the tooth extracted in the first place. It’s likely that the tooth is already causing your child pain, right?

When someone has to have a tooth extracted, it’s because the tooth is no longer viable. This might be because it’s a wisdom tooth that doesn’t have enough room, it’s a cracked or broken tooth, or it’s a tooth with such significant decay that it’s not worth saving. 

All of these problems cause pain. When your child goes into the dentist’s chair with this in mind, it makes the idea of a painful extraction more tolerable. 

During the Procedure Itself

So what should you or your child expect from the extraction procedure as far as pain goes? This is often the most concerning part, but rest assured that while there may be some discomfort, there shouldn’t be any actual pain.

Dentists make sure that patients are unable to feel the extraction. Here’s how.

Local Anesthetic

Dentists will always use a local anesthetic to numb the area around the tooth before they pull it. There will be a pinching sensation when the dentist injects the anesthetic, but this is often the most painful part of the entire procedure.

The anesthetic may make the entire quadrant of the mouth numb.

The local anesthetic doesn’t completely block all feeling in the gums. It should, however, block pain. Patients may feel a pulling sensation, but it shouldn’t be painful.

General Anesthetic

When it comes to adult tooth extractions, it’s not common to go under general anesthesia. It’s a relatively common and simple procedure, and most adults don’t feel the need to go under.

Children, however, are different. Many children experience dental anxiety, and they may struggle to calm down or stay still during their appointment. Because it’s essential that they’re able to sit still during the extraction, general anesthesia is a great option. 

This is also good for children who need multiple extractions during one visit, even if they don’t experience dental anxiety. 

If a child needs to go under anesthesia for tooth extraction, they’ll do so at the local hospital.

With general anesthesia, children won’t experience any pain or discomfort during the procedure. 

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide (otherwise known as laughing gas) is the most common pain prevention treatment during tooth extractions for adults and children alike. While it won’t make the patient completely unconscious, it will put them in a “dreamlike state.” Many people report that they’re not aware of the procedure while it’s happening when they’re using nitrous oxide. 

Before the procedure, the dentist will place a mask over the patient’s nose and mouth. The patient will begin breathing in nitrous oxide. When the patient appears to be comfortable, the dentist will start the extraction process. 

If a patient still feels uncomfortable, they can notify the dentist. Dentists know that if the patient is able to notify them, they likely need a larger dose of nitrous oxide.

Post-Extraction Care and Pain Relief

So the procedure itself isn’t painful, but what happens afterward?

It’s true that your child will experience some discomfort when the anesthetic wears off. They may experience some swelling, and they’ll have difficulty talking and eating for a brief period of time.

Here are a few things that you can do to help your child with pain relief during the healing process.

Over-the-Counter Pain Medication

Your child’s dentist may prescribe a higher dose of an OTC pain medication, but if not, feel free to pick up anti-inflammatories from your local pharmacy. These are often enough to handle post-extraction pain. 

Make sure to only give your child the recommended dose of medication. If they’re still in pain, consider talking to the dentist about prescription pain relief options. 

Saltwater Rinse

One day after the tooth extraction, your child can start rinsing their mouth with warm saltwater. This may help soothe some of their discomfort. 

A saltwater rinse will also help prevent post-extraction complications.

Warm or Cool Compresses

Is your child experiencing swelling after their tooth extraction? No problem. You can use a warm or cold compress to bring down swelling and alleviate pain.

An ice pack is the obvious first choice. You can make one by putting ice in a plastic bag and then wrapping the bag with fabric or a sock.

If your child prefers a warm compress, you can make a DIY rice sock. These are reusable as well!

In some cases, alternating hot and cold compresses is the most effective option.  

So Do Tooth Extractions Hurt? It Depends

When your child asks you, “do tooth extractions hurt?” you can tell them that the extraction might be uncomfortable, but that the discomfort won’t last long. They’ll have a pain-free procedure and a small amount of swelling after the fact, but they’ll no longer have pain from their cavity or wisdom tooth!

Is it time for your child’s next visit to a pediatric dentist? We want to meet them! Contact us to schedule an appointment today.