Injuries to children’s teeth are common. Injuries can range from minor chipping to a knocked-out tooth. Playing sports without a mouthguard, biting down on something hard, grinding your teeth — these are common ways you can chip, crack, loosen, or ultimately lose a tooth. The tooth injury first aid steps you take following such a dental injury will depend on the type and extent of the damage. Still, seeing an emergency dentist as soon as possible is generally important.
Tooth injuries on kids
If your child loses a baby tooth earlier than expected, there’s no need to try to replace it. But if a permanent tooth comes out, it’s a dental emergency. Permanent teeth have the best chance of being saved when replaced within 15 minutes. So it’s important to act quickly and follow the guidelines below.
Many other dental injuries are less urgent but may need to be looked at by a dentist. Most dental injuries in preschool and school-age kids happen from falls, while dental injuries in teens are often sports-related. If you think your child has signs of head or other injuries, call your doctor.
Completely Knocked Out (Avulsed) Tooth
Replanting an avulsed adult tooth within 5 minutes ensures the best outcome, as the body will still recognise the tooth as its own rather than a “graft,” and ligaments that attach the tooth to the surrounding bone are present on the root surface and can reattach. Factors such as the injured person’s age can also affect the outcome.
- What to do: Carefully remove debris from the tooth root by rinsing it in cold tap or bottled water. Avoid touching the root surface itself. Hold the tooth by the crown — the white enamel portion.
- Replant the tooth by grasping the crown between the thumb and first finger with the smooth, flat surface facing forward and pushing the tooth firmly into the socket.
- Apply sustained pressure, so the tooth is not pushed back out.
- If immediate replantation is not possible, control the bleeding with pressure, place the tooth in the patient’s saliva (for example, between the cheek and gums if the patient is old enough to be trusted not to swallow the tooth), or cold milk or water to keep it from drying out.
- See an emergency dentist as soon as possible.
Do NOT attempt to replant a baby tooth, as it could interfere with the health of the underlying permanent tooth. Control bleeding with direct pressure and see a dentist as soon as possible.
If a tooth is moved out of place or pushed deeper into the jaw, do NOT try repositioning it yourself. See an emergency dentist as soon as possible. The longer the tooth is left out of alignment, the harder it will be to move it back to its original position. The after-hours dentist may “splint” it to non-affected teeth to brace it. Depending on the extent of damage, the tooth may need to be moved back into position via orthodontics or extracted.
Locate the tooth fragment if you can, as it may be possible to reattach it using tooth-coloured bonding materials. Do not try to file or smooth the tooth yourself. Note that the tooth may be sensitive to hot and cold due to exposure of nerves in the pulp at their centre.
This type of injury is similar to a chip/break, but more damage has generally occurred. Do not wiggle the tooth or try to remove any portion of it, and avoid biting on it. It may be sensitive to pressure and temperature changes if the pulp has been exposed. If the crack or fracture extends below the gum tissue, saving the tooth may not be possible. A dental examination is very important to determine your options.
Injuries to the soft tissues, which include the tongue, cheeks, gums, and lips, can result in bleeding. To control the bleeding, here’s what to do:
- Rinse the mouth with a mild salt-water solution.
- Use a moistened gauze or tea bag to apply pressure to the bleeding site. Hold in place for 15 to 20 minutes.
- To both control bleeding and relieve pain, hold a cold compress to the outside of the mouth or cheek in the affected area for 5 to 10 minutes.
- If the bleeding doesn’t stop, see your emergency dentist immediately or go to a hospital emergency room. Continue to apply pressure on the bleeding site with the gauze until you can be seen and treated.
Tips to Prevent Sports-Related Tooth and Mouth Injuries
- Mouth guards. When playing sports, wearing a mouth guard is the best way to protect your teeth and mouth.
- Face cages. These protect against trauma to the face, especially when playing certain sports positions, like baseball catcher or hockey goalie.
- Helmets. It’s always wise to wear a helmet made for the activity that you are doing. Although most helmets won’t protect the teeth and mouth, they will protect another important area, your head, to help protect against a concussion.
Dental injuries can be frightening for both children and parents, but knowing what to do in the event of a tooth injury can help minimise the damage. If you are ever faced with a dental emergency, please don’t hesitate to call our office for assistance. We will work to get you an appointment as soon as possible and help you get your child back to smiling again.