More than 30 percent of children injure their primary teeth at some point in childhood.1 Kids most commonly sustain these injuries from falls, bike and car accidents, sports-related injuries, and violence.2 Teeth can be chipped or knocked-out any time of year. However, since many families become more active when warm weather arrives, springtime can be a good time to review how to handle dental injuries.
Stay calm, act promptly
Dental injuries can shake up kids and parents alike. Outcomes improve greatly when you can avoid panicking, know how to handle the situation, and react quickly.
Chips — Chipped teeth are the most common dental injury.3 If your child chips a tooth, the Academy of General Dentistry recommends the following4:
- Try to find the chip. It might be used to restore the tooth.
- Place the chip in a plastic bag; add a few drops of water to the bag or wrap the chip in wet gauze.
- Visit the dentist as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the higher the risk of permanent nerve damage to the tooth.
Knock-outs — Each year, more than 5 million adults and children knock out a tooth.5 Fortunately, a knocked-out tooth isn’t necessarily a tooth lost forever.
- If your child knocks out an adult tooth6,7:
- Locate the tooth. Handle it by the crown (chewing surface), not the root.
- Gently rinse it with water, if it’s dirty. Do NOT use soap or chemicals, scrub, dry or wrap it in anything.
- Place it back in the socket, if possible. Hold it in place or gently bite down. If placing it back in the socket isn’t an option, place it in a glass of milk or use a tooth preservation product.
- Get to a dentist or endodontist as soon as possible, ideally within 30 minutes—if these providers are not available or nearby, visit the emergency room. According to the Mayo Clinic, if reimplementation doesn’t occur within two hours of a tooth being knocked out, “the likelihood of success becomes poor.”8
- If your child knocks out a baby tooth:
- Dentists probably won’t replace a knocked-out baby tooth; however, they may want to see it. If possible, find and save it. KidsHealth.org advises you treat the injured area by applying pressure, if it is bleeding, with cold, wet gauze; reduce swelling by offering the child an ice pop to suck on or holding an ice-pack wrapped in a washcloth to his or her cheek.9 Contact a dentist.
These are only two examples of common dental injuries. Teeth may be cracked or loosened, pain may be present, and gums may be injured, among other things. Whenever a dental injury occurs, apply first aid, and contact a dental or medical professional or seek immediate care, as appropriate. When injuries are severe or life-threatening, call 911.
Plan ahead for dental emergencies
Next time you or your child visit the dentist, discuss how to handle various dental emergencies. Inquire about the availability of after-hours and emergency care. If your dentist does not provide after-hours or emergency care, ask who he or she recommends. Program these contacts into your mobile phone and keep them visibly posted in your home for babysitters and other caregivers.
Buy dental insurance
Most health insurance plans do not cover dental care except for in specific situations, as outlined by your health insurance policy. Find out if and how your health insurance plan covers dental injuries and/or emergencies. Also secure a dental insurance plan to help pay for preventive, basic and major oral health care.
Oral injuries may not be entirely avoidable, but a little prevention may lessen the odds. Talk to your kids about how to be safe when active indoors and outside; teach them how to properly drink out of a drinking fountain; and provide them with a mouthguard to wear when playing sports.
1American Academy of Pediatrics. “Oral Injury.” PPT. N.D. http://www2.aap.org/oralhealth/pact/index-materials.cfm
3American Academy of Pediatrics. “Traumatic Dental Injuries.” N.D. http://www.aae.org/patients/treatments-and-procedures/traumatic-dental-injuries.aspx
4Academy of General Dentistry. “What Should I Do if I Chip a Tooth?” Reviewed Jan. 2012. http://www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=w&iid=185&aid=1240
5American Association of Endodontists. “Knocked-Out Teeth.” N.D. http://www.aae.org/patients/symptoms/knocked-out-teeth.aspx
7American Dental Association. “Dental Emergencies.” Mouth Healthy. N.D. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/dental-care-concerns/dental-emergencies/
8Mayo Clinic. “Tooth Loss: First Aid.” Nov. 25, 2014. http://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-tooth-loss/basics/art-20056635
9KidsHealth.org. “First Aid: Teeth Injuries.” Reviewed by Larissa Hirsch. April 2014. http://kidshealth.org/parent/firstaid_safe/sheets/tooth_sheet.html