What Should I do if my Child breaks or Loses a tooth?

Dental emergencies are very common in children and adolescents. Just like any first aid situation, knowledge, planning, and preparation are key to minimizing pain, discomfort and long-term damage. The most important way to prepare is to find a pediatric dentist for your child for regular check-ups.

After establishing a relationship with your child’s dentist, you will have someone to call during the day and after hours when the need arises. Keep your pediatric dentist’s phone number with other emergency numbers such as the pediatrician, fire, and police departments.

The following instructions are to serve as a planning tool – it is still very important to call your dentist immediately for definitive instructions on how to handle a dental emergency. If the situation is life-threatening, call 911 or visit the ER first!

Prevention

Prevention is key when it comes to reducing the risk of oral injuries and mouth guards offer a simple and relatively inexpensive solution to minimize the chance of chipping, breaking or knocking out a tooth. Athletes who don’t wear a mouth guard are 60 times more likely to damage their teeth, according to the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation. And while your child may not be required by his or her team to wear a mouth guard, we encourage parents to consider it an essential piece of protective material. An effective mouth guard holds teeth in place allowing your child to speak and breathe normally. A proper fit should cover your children’s teeth and depending on their bite, may cover their gums as well. Stock mouth guards can be purchased at your local drugstore and are ready-to-wear.

Injury to Baby Teeth

Children play hard inside and outside and accidents happen that can result in a baby teeth getting chipped, broken or knocked out. If this happens, contact your pediatric dentist immediately. Quick action can save the tooth and help reduce the need for any major dental work. If the tooth is chipped or broken and you can find the tooth fragment, please bring it with you to the dentist. If the tooth is knocked out, don’t worry about finding the tooth. Baby teeth are not replanted due to the potential damage to permanent developing teeth. In any case, rinse your child’s mouth and apply cold compresses to reduce swelling.

Injury to Permanent Teeth

If a permanent tooth is damaged, similar rules apply. Contact your pediatric dentist immediately and if the office is closed, call the after hours number. If a tooth has been knocked out, try to find it and rinse it in cold water. Do not scrub the tooth or use soap to wash it. If you can, replace the tooth in the socket and hold it there gently with clean gauze or a washcloth. If this can’t be done, place the tooth in a clean container with cold milk and bring it with you to your appointment.

Lip and Tongue Wounds

The human face is an extremely delicate body part. Just think about all of the sensitive nerve endings and tiny blood vessels inside around your mouth. No wonder it hurts and bleeds a lot when cut or damaged.

Not only can blood scare children (and lots of adults) it can cover up more serious injuries. Swelling can set in very quickly and make lips, tongues, and gums look and feel disfigured. Don’t rely on just a visual inspection of the wound.

Clean the area gently with a clean cloth and apply cold compresses to reduce any swelling. If the bleeding can’t be controlled after applying firm but gentle pressure to the area, go to the emergency room or an urgent care center. KidMed is a great after hours urgent care center for kids in Glen Allen and Midlothian.

Call your pediatric dentist to evaluate the lip/tongue, and to confirm that your child’s teeth were not affected by the trauma. Sometimes this just involves a visual inspection. In more serious cases, we may need to x-ray the child’s mouth to look for hidden damage.

Like you, we hate to see our children in pain and scared. Staying calm can help your child stay calm. Usually, the sooner you can get treatment, the better.

If your child does hurt himself or herself, we are ready to help. We can usually fit in emergency cases during office hours and one of our dentists is always on call for after-hours emergencies.

Usually baby teeth wiggle out on their own (or can be coaxed), but occasionally a child falls accidentally and loses a tooth the hard way.

Elizabeth Cook Miller, D.D.S., M.S. is a pediatric dentist at Atkins, Maestrello, Miller & Associates Pediatric Dentistry in Richmond, VA. She is a new mother, active runner and her favorite movie is "Finding Nemo".

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