Published on May 3, 2016, Updated on November 14, 2017
Knowing the common types of pediatric oral injuries, and what symptoms merit seeking emergency dental care, will help you remain calm during a time of duress. Kids are kids and they fall — frequently. Chances are, at some point, you will be exposed to some form of oral trauma with one of your little ones. Any dental injury, even a minor one, requires examination by a dentist immediately. Sometimes, neighboring teeth suffer an additional, unnoticed injury that will only be detected by a thorough dental exam. Call a member of our Hardy Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics team as soon as you can for advice on how to proceed when an injury has occurred. Below are the most common pediatric emergency dental care situations and what you should do.
Pediatric Emergency Dental Care Situations and Instructions
- Toothache. One of the most common calls we receive from parents are concerning toothaches. Toothaches that persist need to be examined in a dentist office. Common causes of toothaches are: erupting teeth, broken teeth, tooth decay and tooth trauma. What to do: 1) Clean the area that hurts with warm water. 2) Do not apply heat to the tooth or the area around the tooth. 3) Check to see if any food is trapped and remove with floss or a toothbrush if seen. 4) Apply an icepack to the hurt area to help with swelling and pain. 5) Contact our office.
- Knocked out permanent tooth. Injuries that cause a tooth to be knocked out completely should be reported immediately. Time is critical for being able to re-implant a permanent tooth. What to do: 1) Find the lost tooth. Avoid handling the roots. Only touch the crown of the tooth. 2) Carefully clean the tooth with water without scrubbing or scraping. 3) For older children, you can insert the tooth back into its original location using gentle pressure or have them keep it in their mouth against their cheek on your way to the dental office. For younger children, place the tooth in milk or saliva. DO NOT try to put a tooth back into a young child’s mouth. There is too much risk that they will swallow the tooth. 4) Keep the tooth wet while you are traveling to the office. Moisture is key for re-implantation success; 5) If it is after hours and you can’t reach a member of our team, take your child to the emergency room immediately to save the tooth. Chances of re-implantation success greatly diminish after one hour.
- Knocked Out Baby Tooth. Contact your pediatric dentist during business hours. This is not usually an emergency, and in most cases, no treatment is necessary.
- Tooth displacement. A tooth that has become partly removed from its socket or displaced from an injury should be treated with care. In young children, primary teeth tend to heal themselves without medical treatment. However, dental treatment should be sought for permanent teeth that have been displaced — even slightly — in order to save the tooth and prevent infection.
- Broken tooth. Contact Dr. Nam immediately. Your quick action can save the tooth, prevent infection and help you avoid more extensive dental treatment. What to do: 1) Rinse the mouth with water and apply a cold compresses to reduce swelling. 2) If possible, locate and save any broken tooth fragments and bring them with you to the dentist.
- Root fracture. A root fracture is caused by direct trauma and is not noticeable to the naked eye. If you suspect a root fracture, your dentist will need to confirm it with dental x-rays. Depending on the positioning of the fracture and the level of discomfort, the tooth can be monitored, treated, or extracted — as a worst case scenario. What to do: 1) Place a cold compress on the injured area. 2) Administer pediatrician-approved pain relief. 3) Contact us for instructions.
- Dental concussion. A tooth that has not been knocked out or broken, but has received a good hit, can be described as “concussed.” Typically occurring in toddlers, dental concussion can cause a tooth to discolor permanently or temporarily. Unless the tooth turns black or dark (indicating that the tooth is dying and may require root canal therapy), dental concussion does not require emergency treatment.
- Tongue, Lip or Mouth Laceration. Trauma to the lips, tongue and the inside of the mouth is quite common. The soft flesh of the lips and their exposed location make them vulnerable to injury. What to do: 1) Clean injured skin surfaces with mild soapy water and a soft, clean cloth. To clean cuts inside the mouth, rinse with salt water. 2) If the lip is swollen or bruised, apply a cold compress. If there is bleeding, apply pressure with a clean cloth for at least five minutes. Using ice can help limit swelling, bleeding and discomfort. Wrap crushed ice in clean gauze or a clean piece of cloth and hold it on the area affected. Seek immediate care if: 1) Bleeding cannot be controlled with pressure and a cold compress. 2) You have a deep cut that crosses the border between the lip and facial skin. 3) The lip is punctured. 4) If an infection develops after an injury.
Schedule A Visit for Emergency Dental Care or a Follow-up
If you would like to know more about emergency dental care protocol or any of our other services, or if you’d like to make an appointment, call Hardy Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics today.