Children can be very hard on their teeth. About 50 percent of children have some type of injury to their teeth before they reach adulthood. Children are both active and clumsy, and accidents to the mouth are very common. Teeth can be damaged during falls, fights, or sporting events.
These injuries can be painful when they happen, and some teeth might have to be removed or replaced. The long-term problems with missing or broken teeth will need to be addressed when the child is reaching the age for braces. Poor teeth can affect a child’s self-confidence and appearance. If the damage is left untreated, the child will experience a great deal of pain and be unable to eat certain foods that increase the pain. A damaged tooth is more susceptible to cavities and nerve pain than a repaired tooth.
Injury To Baby Teeth
Injures to a tooth or several teeth is common in toddlers. Children who are learning to walk are very prone to falls that involve hitting their mouths and chipping or dislodging a tooth. This is painful, and there will be some bleeding. If the tooth is just chipped, the child should be taken to a dentist so the tooth can be sealed or repaired.
If the tooth is dislodged or very loose, the child should be taken to a dentist who can decide whether the tooth can be saved or if it needs to be pulled. A baby tooth that is dislodged does not need to be put back in, but it is important to see a dentist to make sure there aren’t any tooth fragments still in the mouth that could become infected. Most dentists recommend replacing the missing tooth with a spacer so there will be room for the permanent tooth when it comes in, since that is years away. Baby teeth are designed to fall out between the ages of 6 and 12 as the permanent teeth come in.
Injury To Permanent Teeth
When permanent teeth have replaced baby teeth, injury needs to be avoided if at all possible. This can be difficult depending on the child. Some kids are very robust and suffer through many rounds of injuries; other kids are more restrained and have less risk for tooth injury. It is always a good idea to have the child wear a mouth guard as part of their protective gear when biking, skateboarding or rollerblading. Most organized sports like football and basketball require mouth guards for protection.
If a permanent tooth is chipped or cracked, it can be repaired by a dentist very easily. These repairs can last for many years and are not very noticeable. Dentists will not be able to make a permanent repair on a child since they are still growing, and their teeth and mouth are changing, but they will be able to fix the tooth.
A loose permanent tooth is an emergency. Without prompt treatment, the tooth may not be able to be saved. A dentist can return the tooth to the proper position and hold it in place until it heals by using stitches or a splint.
If the tooth is dislodged, that is an emergency. The tooth needs to be returned to the socket as soon as possible. The majority of dislodged teeth can be saved if they are returned to the socket within five minutes of being knocked out. However, if the tooth is out for longer, the chance of saving it is still possible with treatment within an hour, if the tooth is properly cared for. The child or an adult should try to replace the tooth and call a dentist immediately. Here is the process to replacing a dislodged tooth:
- Handle the tooth gently by the crown (top)
- Remove any debris by rinsing the tooth in cold milk
- Hold the tooth by the top, attempt to replace it into the socket
- Have the child gently bite on a clean towel to keep the tooth in place while traveling to the dentist
If it is impossible to replace the tooth in the socket, place the tooth in cold milk. Try to avoid putting the tooth in water since it contains chlorine that can damage the tooth. If milk is not available, have the child put the loose tooth in their mouth and hold it there until they can be seen by a dentist. Only do this if the child is old enough not to swallow the tooth. The longer the tooth is dislodged the less chance it has to be successfully reimplanted in the mouth.
If the dentist is unable to save the tooth, he or she can put in a spacer until the child is older. By the age of 17, or 18, the dentist should be able to repair the tooth permanently with a bridge or implant, just as they would in an adult mouth.
The dentist should also check for additional damage the child may have suffered to the head and jaw, if the tooth damage was from an accident or impact to the face, as in a sporting activity. Jaw injuries, especially temporomandibular (TMJ) disorder can cause debilitating pain and other dental problems for years, if left untreated. The dentist can do a complete check-up on the mouth, face, and head.
Other injuries that accompany tooth loss due to an accident or fall would be cuts in the mouth, lips, or tongue that would require stitches.
With the advances in cosmetic dentistry over the past 20 years, there is no reason why anyone should suffer with a missing tooth or an unpleasant smile. Patients still have the option of bridges and crowns to repair damages or missing teeth. However, there are many other methods that an experienced dentist can use to create a beautiful smile. Dentists can use implants for permanent tooth replacement. They can also use bonding or veneers to hide imperfections, like chips. Finding a dentist with cosmetic experience is the best way to give your child the smile they deserve.
Contact Lakeway Center for Cosmetic & Family Dentistry to set up an appointment for your child today!