What to Do if Your Child Has a Dental Emergency
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Dr. Michael Letham
Children who regularly engage in rough-and-tumble play or contact sports are more prone to having a dental emergency.
There are different types of oral trauma that your kids can experience while they are playing or engaging in a sport which may require emergency dental care.
Here are the four most common types of dental emergencies children may experience, and tips on how to handle them:
1) Knocked-out tooth
A knocked-out or avulsed tooth is one of the most common dental emergencies children can experience. They can have a tooth knocked out due to a blow to the mouth or an accident involving the face which can happen while they are playing contact sports.
If a tooth has been knocked-out of the child’s mouth completely, check if it is a permanent or primary tooth first. In case it is a baby or primary tooth, it is best to chuck it out since dentists will not attempt to re-implant this type of tooth.
However, if the avulsed tooth is a permanent one, bring your child immediately to the dentist to have the tooth re-implanted. It is also important that you follow these important steps once your child tells you about the knocked-out tooth:
- Find the tooth. Make sure you handle only the crown and avoid touching the tooth root.
- If your child is below 10 years old, store the tooth in a jar with milk or saliva. Do not reinsert the tooth in the socket since he or she might accidentally swallow it.
- If your child is aged 10 and above, insert the tooth into its original socket gently. You can also guide him or her to do this. Another option would be to let your child keep the tooth within his or her mouth, close to a cheek.
- For successful re-implantation, bring your child to a dentist within an hour after the tooth was knocked out.
2) Chipped or broken tooth
Whether the chipped or fractured tooth is permanent or primary, it is important that you bring your child to a dentist immediately.
This is because when a tooth is chipped or broken, the protective hard enamel can be compromised. This will make it easier for bacteria to enter the pulp and cause an infection.
If your child tells you he or she chipped, cracked, or broke a tooth, try to locate the tooth fragment. Next, put it in a container of milk or saliva and bring it when you go to the dental clinic.
If the fracture is not severe, the dentist will bond the fragment to the broken tooth after checking and cleaning the affected area.
In case the fracture is large, the dentist will treat the pulp and seal the tooth first, and then wait for about two weeks to ensure the pulp is healed. After this, the dentist will recommend tooth restoration options you and your child can choose to bring his or her healthy smile back.
3) Displaced tooth
A displaced or extruded tooth is a tooth that remains in the socket but is protruding at an unnatural angle after a trauma. In most instances, the pulp remains intact but the underlying jawbone is fractured or injured.
In young children, a displaced primary tooth often heals itself without any treatment. However, it is best to bring your child to a dental clinic after a tooth has been displaced so that the dentist can check and save the tooth and prevent infection.
If your child is complaining of pain because of a displaced tooth, place a cold, moist compress on the affected area and take him or her to an emergency dentist immediately.
For many kids (and adults), even the smallest tooth pain can cause them to be in great discomfort and unable to do anything.
If your child has a toothache, find the cause first. Check the area where he or she is feeling pain and look for a cavity in the tooth, an erupting tooth, or a piece of meat stuck between the teeth.
Let your child brush and floss to dislodge the food stuck between the teeth which could be the cause of pain. Another remedy you can try is to have your child gargle with warm salt water.
In case the toothache persists, bring your child to the dentist immediately.
As a precautionary measure, let your child wear a mouthguard when he or she regularly engages in close physical or contact sports.
Encourage your child to practice the right oral care habits as well since these will also go a long way in helping him or her maintain strong and healthy teeth.
When your child has a dental emergency, stay calm and focused, and schedule an appointment with a dentist immediately.
Dr. Michael Letham is the owner and dentist at 24/7 Dental and Bayside Smiles. He graduated from Sydney University in 2000 with Honours, receiving the R Morse Withycombe Prize for Proficiency in Clinical Periodontics (gum treatment). Striving to provide a modern, holistic approach to dental care that is tailored to each individual's requirements, Mike's focus is on being thorough and meticulous whilst being caring and compassionate.