Prepare how to manage a dental emergency for your child if one arises.
As parents we have all seen it coming. Your child is running on the athletic field or pavement and falls straight onto their faces hurting their teeth. Dental injuries are common in children and depending on the extent of the injury, can be considered a dental emergency. Fortunately, many common dental emergencies are easily treated and no permanent damage will result. It is always a good idea to have knowledge of common dental emergencies so that if it occurs you know what to look for, how to treat it, and you will have a child smiling in no time.
Dental emergencies in children are very similar to adults, but they simply occur in younger people. Most of the ways to treat dental emergencies are the same, but you should be aware of key differences to have a plan in action if it occurs.
1. Knocked Out Tooth
A tooth accidentally knocked out is one of the greatest dental emergencies, but if it happens, don’t panic. A knocked out tooth is known as a dental avulsion and is a common occurrence for people who are active.
There are steps to take to treat a knocked out tooth and ensure the least amount of long-term problems. If a baby tooth gets knocked out, try and find it and keep pressure on the tooth socket for bleeding control. You should never re-implant a baby tooth because it can cause damage to the developing adult tooth. However you should always schedule a dental appointment to determine there is no piece of root or tooth remaining and no other damage was done.
If an adult tooth gets knocked out, it is a very time sensitive occurrence that needs immediate professional attention. The plan if an adult tooth gets knocked out:
- Control bleeding: keep sterile gauze or a clean paper towel on the tooth socket to control bleeding
- Find the tooth and reinsert: If you find the tooth, gently clean it off with milk or water, but try and avoid touching the root of the tooth. If it is clean enough, try to re-insert it to the tooth socket and maintain biting down on something to keep it in place.
- No reinsertion: If the root is dirty or you cannot reinsert it, remain calm and try to find a natural solution like saline or milk. Water is not a good choice because it destroys root cells necessary to successfully re-implant.
- Find an emergency dentist: You have up to 60 minutes to get to a dental office and have the tooth successfully re-implanted for the greatest chance of saving the tooth. Your dentist will take a radiograph, properly reinsert it, and splint your teeth with a flexible wire to help preserve your tooth. You will need a root canal within a few weeks to permanently save the tooth.
2. Loose Tooth
If your child has an injury and a tooth becomes mobile it is important to schedule a dental appointment. Avoid touching the tooth or trying to move it as it can cause further damage. Tooth displacement can result in a tooth being pushed up (intrusion) or pushed out (extrusion).
In baby teeth, your dentist may gently reposition the tooth if the displacement is minor. Many times spontaneous repositioning will take place on its own and there are no long-term complications. It is common to observe the tooth for damage over several weeks if the injury is minor. You will be recommended to avoid hard and crunchy foods for seven to 10 days and return to your dentist for a follow-up. If there is severe displacement and your child is symptomatic, it may be recommended to extract the tooth to prevent pain and infection.
3. Chipped or Fractured Teeth
Teeth that chip or fracture from an injury should be evaluated by a dentist to determine if it is the result of trauma or tooth decay. Sometimes a tooth is weakened from decay and can fracture even when biting into a soft food. Depending on the extent of a chipped tooth, it may be simply monitored and observed or repaired with a dental filling or crown to protect it. If your child has a broken tooth, the proper steps include the following:
- Determine extent of injury and if your child is in pain
- Find fragment of tooth and wrap it in a paper towel or gauze to bring to the dentist
- Rinse mouth with warm salt rinse
- Use a cold compress on injured area
- Your child can take an over-the-counter pain medication if they are experiencing severe discomfort
- Call your dentist for an emergency visit
Anyone who has experienced a toothache knows how painful it can be. If your child reports a toothache, do not hesitate to call your dentist for an appointment. Tooth pain resulting from decay can result in an infection that spreads quickly. This is one of the most important reasons why if your dentist informs you that a small filling is needed, you should get it done quickly to avoid any dental complications and discomfort.
To manage your child’s toothache at home, you can give children’s over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Avoid foods that can irritate the area or cause more pain like sweets.
5. Jaw or Mouth Injury
Trauma to the mouth often looks much worse than it actually is. This is likely due to the significant amount of blood vessels in the face and mouth area so that a minor injury is often accompanied by some bruising and bleeding. Regardless of the type of injury, slight or severe, you should call your dentist immediately for an evaluation and find the closest emergency dentist nearby. Your dentist will take an X-ray and clinically examine your child to ensure there are no jaw, root or teeth fractures. Some helpful tips if your child experiences any injury to the mouth include the following:
- Apply a cold compress to the affected area
- For any head trauma, you should seek the closest emergency room if your child experiences loss of consciousness or vomiting
- For any uncontrolled bleeding, you should call 911 or seek the closest emergency room
- If your child’s jaw is affected, please don’t attempt to move it. It is best to wait for a specialist.
If you are ever unsure if your child has a dental emergency, always call an emergency dentist to determine the proper treatment. A mouth injury or toothache is never predictable, but when you have a plan for the unexpected, you will feel much more at ease.