Although dental injuries and dental emergencies are often distressing for both children and parents, they are also extremely common. Approximately one third of children have experienced some type of dental trauma, and more have experienced a dental emergency.
There are two peak risk periods for dental trauma - the first being toddler-hood (18-40 months) when environmental exploration begins, and the second being the preadolescence/adolescent period, when sporting injuries become commonplace.
Detailed below are some of the most common childhood dental emergencies, in addition to helpful advice on how to deal with them.
Toothache- Toothaches are a common occurrence. Sometimes it's as simple as food stuck between teeth. Other times it's more involved. If pain persists please call our office.
Dental Avulsion (knocked-out tooth)
If your child should suffer trauma whereby the lose their tooth please call our office. If it is a baby tooth place it in milk and call the office. If it is an adult tooth, time is of the essence. Carefully pick the tooth up from the crown not the root and get to the office as soon as possible.
Intruded or Displaced tooth please call our office so we can properly evaluate.
The crown is the largest, most visible part of the tooth. In most cases, the crown is the part of the tooth that sustains trauma. There are several classifications of crown fracture, ranging from minor enamel cracks (not an emergency) to pulp exposure (requiring immediate treatment).
The pediatric dentist can readily assess the severity of the fracture using dental X-rays, but any change in tooth color (for example, pinkish or yellowish tinges inside the tooth) is an emergency warning sign. Minor crown fractures often warrant the application of dental sealant, whereas more severe crown fractures sometimes require pulp treatments. In the case of crown fracture, the pediatric dentist should be contacted. Jagged enamel can irritate and inflame soft oral tissues, causing infection.
A root fracture is caused by direct trauma, and isn’t noticeable to the naked eye. If a root fracture is suspected, dental x-rays need to be taken. Depending on the exact positioning of the fracture and the child’s level of discomfort, the tooth can be monitored, treated, or extracted as a worse case scenario.
A tooth that has not been dislodged from its socket or fractured, but has received a bang or knock, can be described as “concussed.” Typically occurring in toddlers, dental concussion can cause the 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.
Injured Cheek, Lip or Tongue
If the child’s cheek, lip or tongue is bleeding due to an accidental cut or bite, apply firm direct pressure to the area using a clean cloth or gauze. To reduce swelling, apply ice to the affected areas. If the bleeding becomes uncontrollable, proceed to the Emergency Room or call a medical professional immediately.
If a broken or fractured jaw is suspected, proceed immediately to the Emergency Room. In the meantime, encourage the child not to move the jaw. In the case of a very young child, gently tie a scarf length ways around the head and jaw to prevent movement.
Head Injury/Head Trauma
If the child has received trauma to the head, proceed immediately to the Emergency Room. Even if consciousness has not been lost, it is important for pediatric doctors to rule out delayed concussion and internal bleeding.
If you have questions about dental emergencies, please ask your pediatric dentist.