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Dental Surgery in Children: What to Expect at Home

Your Child's Recovery

Dental surgery includes procedures such as tooth extractions, root canals, and gum surgery. Your child's procedure may be done by:

  • A dentist.
  • An oral surgeon.
  • An endodontist, for root canals.
  • A periodontist, for gum surgery.

Children are likely to get medicine to make them sleep during dental surgery. It depends on the age of the child and the procedure being done.

Your child may have some pain, bleeding, or swelling afterward. He or she may get medicine for pain. The pain should improve steadily after the surgery.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for your child to recover. But each child recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to help your child get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for your child at home?

Activity

  • Allow the area to heal. Don't let your child move quickly or lift anything heavy until he or she is feeling better.
  • Have your child rest when he or she feels tired.
  • Your dentist may give you specific instructions on when your child can do normal activities again, such as playing sports and going back to school.

Diet

  • Give your child soft foods, such as gelatin, pudding, or a thin soup. Gradually add solid foods as your child heals. Your child can eat solid foods again in about a week.
  • If your child had a tooth pulled, don't let him or her use a straw for the first few days. Sucking on a straw can loosen the blood clot that forms at the surgery site. If this happens, it can delay healing.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when your child can restart his or her medicines. Your doctor will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the dentist gave you a prescription medicine for pain, give it to your child as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your dentist if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If your dentist prescribed antibiotics, give them to your child as directed. Do not stop giving them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.

Mouth care

  • While your child's mouth is numb, give him or her liquids or soft foods that don't need to be chewed. This can help prevent biting the tongue or the inside of the cheek or lip.
  • If your child had a tooth pulled, have your child bite gently on a gauze pad now and then. Change the pad as it becomes soaked with blood. Call your dentist or oral surgeon if your child still has bleeding 24 hours after the surgery.
  • If your child had stitches in his or her gums, your dentist will tell you if and when your child needs to come back to have them removed.
  • Starting 24 hours after a tooth was pulled, gently rinse your child's mouth with warm salt water several times a day to reduce swelling and relieve pain.
  • Have your child continue to brush his or her teeth and tongue carefully. Your child can floss when your dentist says it's okay.

Ice

  • If needed, put ice or a cold pack on your child's cheek for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when your child is awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and the skin.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has trouble breathing.
  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).

Call your dentist now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has pain that does not get better after you give your child pain medicine.
  • Your child has loose stitches, or the incision comes open.
  • Your child has new or more bleeding from the site.
  • Your child has symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your dentist if you have questions.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter D275 in the search box to learn more about "Dental Surgery in Children: What to Expect at Home".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.