Try as you might, it is nearly impossible to protect your child from injuries as they grow. Mouth injuries from falls, errant sports equipment or swimming or sledding accidents are common in children. Most injuries or emergencies are minor and result in a bloody gum or lip, but others can be more serious and cause trauma to baby teeth. Here’s what parents should know about baby tooth injuries.
Baby Tooth Trauma: What Parents Should Know about Baby Tooth Injuries
When it comes to baby tooth trauma, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that while baby tooth trauma can certainly be painful and scary, your pediatric dentist knows that preserving or healing the baby tooth is typically a short term problem. Since your child will eventually lose all their baby teeth, it can be a far less painful (and expensive) process to save a baby tooth than it is to save an adult tooth. Depending on the nature of the injury, and what tooth the injury affects, your pediatric dentist may opt to either remove the tooth or provide a temporary fix.
The bad news is that baby tooth trauma can be a bit complicated, depending on the injury. Baby teeth play an important role in your child’s overall oral growth and development. They help your child form words, try new foods, and even hold space and “guide in” erupting adult teeth. They’re also an important part of your child’s social development as they smile and play with their friends. They’ll use many of their baby teeth up until they are 12 or 13 years old, so in some baby tooth trauma cases, your pediatric dentist may need to do more extensive work to save the tooth.
Overall, your pediatric dentist will do their best to make a decision for the baby tooth that will have the best positive outcome for the adult teeth surrounding the tooth, or waiting to erupt under the tooth. So, in some cases, that might mean leaving the tooth out (if it was knocked out) or using bonding material to fix cracked or chipped baby teeth.
We strongly recommend taking your child to a pediatric dentist right away for any mouth or baby tooth trauma, regardless of the severity of the injury. Your dentist will likely take an xray to determine the depth of the injury and may want to keep a close eye on the injured baby tooth over the next couple of months.
If you’re still not sure how you should handle an injury, or if the injury happens on vacation or over a holiday, here are some facts about baby tooth trauma that can help you in the moment.
Types of baby tooth trauma
Cracks or chips: cracks or chips in the enamel (surface) of the tooth might just need to be smoothed so there are no rough edges that can cut your child’s tongue, lips or cheeks. This procedure is usually quick and painless and can be completed in office on the same day as your emergency appointment
Larger cracks and chips: if the chip or crack goes below the surface enamel and affects the second layer of the tooth (the dentin), the dentist may need to add a composite filling or even reshape or fill in the tooth with a composite material. Depending on the severity of the crack, your child may need to be numbed for this procedure. But this procedure can be very successful and help keep your child’s baby tooth strong and intact for several more years until the adult teeth are ready to erupt.
Injury to the nerve: Some chips and cracks, or even bad bumps can cause damage to the nerve of the tooth. Just like with adult teeth, the baby tooth might need a root canal to save the tooth. If the damage is very extensive, or if it is a front tooth your child might lose naturally in the next year or so any way, your dentist may opt to pull the tooth. In some cases, they may place a spacer so that there is still room for the adult tooth to erupt without overcrowding from the other teeth.
Bumps and bruises: Some injuries won’t cause cracks or chips, but can bump and loosen the teeth, or cause soreness and bruising. Again, a dental x-ray in these cases will be extremely helpful in determining the extent of the injury. Most kids may just need a couple of days to have the soreness go away, but other types of bruising can be quite painful. In cases where the teeth may have been pushed back up into the bone, the dentist may need to remove the tooth so that there isn’t deeper damage under the surface.
Remember that the information provided above specifically relates to injuries to baby teeth. Your treatment plan will likely change if the injury is to one of your child’s permanent teeth. Since any injury to your child’s mouth can be stressful for everyone, here’s what to do in general when your child has a mouth injury:
- Try to stay calm. Mouth injuries can not just be painful, they can also be messy. Do your best to stay calm so you all have the best chance of a seamless recovery.
- If there is any bleeding, have your child bite on a piece of gauze firmly (but not too hard). This can help stop the bleeding and give you a better view of the injury.
- Save any teeth or pieces of teeth you might find. Make sure pieces of teeth aren’t embedded in the child’s lip or cheek.
- If there is a sharp area on the injured tooth, a piece of dental wax can help in the moment.
- As soon as possible, contact your dentist about the injury. For mouth injuries that are severe, you may need to visit your emergency room and schedule a follow up appointment with your general dentist later. But many dentists offer emergency services (or even a 24/7 call in number) so that you can at least verbally determine with a dental professional what next steps should be.
Baby tooth trauma can be scary for both you and your child, but your dentist will develop a treatment plan that keeps both your child’s overall oral health in mind and the health of the soon-to-come adult teeth. No two cases are alike, so be prepared to discuss options with your dentist. They’ll do everything they can to make sure your child is comfortable and pain free and ready to grow into a great set of adult teeth.
Remember: The above information is to be used as general guidelines and you should not use this information to diagnose yourself. If you are concerned about your teeth, you should contact our Clintonville, Ohio dentists for a thorough dental exam.
Pediatric Dentistry and Emergency Dentistry in Columbus Ohio
We are proud to offer pediatric dentistry and emergency dentistry to our patients in Central Ohio. Call us if your child has baby tooth trauma. Contact us today to learn more!