School is about out for the summer and soon children everywhere will be attending camp, playing sports or just enjoying time in the back yard. Summer is also the time when children can get into trouble, be it scraped knees, bruises, or even a knocked out tooth. It's especially easy to panic when your child shows up with a loose or knocked out tooth, but there is actually a lot both you and your dentists can do to ensure your child will keep their tooth. Let's take a closer look at what to do if your child (or the parent) dislodges or knocks out a tooth.
Early Care Is Key
When a tooth is hit in an injury, several things can happen. In some cases the tooth can just be push to the side or loosened, but it doesn't fall out. In a case like this, damage can also be sustained to the nearby gums and root. Other times a tooth may be completely knocked out leaving a hole where the tooth a root were once positioned. Regardless of the circumstance, both situations should be treated promptly and with some urgency. There are also separate care measures which we'll get into in a bit. First off let's look at how to care for a loose or dislodged tooth and then a knocked out tooth.
In a case where the tooth has not fallen completely out, you have a better overall chance of saving it. This can happen in two ways. Either the tooth is pushed partly out of the socket, or it is pushed further up into the socket. Avoid pushing or touching the tooth, and rather try to keep your child calm. Ask your child not to fiddle with the loose tooth, and instead have them keep their jaw gently closed around the injury. If there is bleeding you can use gauze or a clean wash cloth to stem the bleeding. Next you'll want to contact your dentist right away. For those situations where the dentist's office isn't open, emergency dental clinics or emergency rooms can perform necessary care for the tooth.
Knocked Out Tooth
If the tooth has completely fallen out, the situation is more severe. Generally, you only have less than an hour to save the tooth, and the longer you wait, the lower the chances of saving it. Again staying calm and keeping your child calm is key. Collect the tooth carefully and only touch it on the top portion. Avoid touching any of the root portion as this could cause damage to the tooth itself. If the tooth is dirty, you'll want to gently rinse it with tap water, but don't hold it under the facet. Fill a cup or bowl of water and dip it into the water briefly.
Next you'll need to decide if the tooth can be reinserted into the socket. If it can, do so after you have cleaned it with tap water (note: do not brush a knocked out tooth). Again, holding the tooth portion and not the root, gently insert it back into the socket. Have the child hold their jaw closed gently once the tooth has been reinserted. Next, head to the dentist's office or emergency room immediately.
If the tooth cannot be replaced in the socket it just fell out of, then your secret weapon is a glass of milk. Place the tooth in the milk and head immediately for the dentist's office or emergency room. Do not leave the tooth exposed to open air or in a glass of water. If milk is unavailable, then holding the tooth in your cheek is the next best option.
Loose Tooth Treatment
If the tooth was just damaged or loosened but didn't fall out, your dentist will inspect it and plan a proper course of treatment. Your dentist will be able to adjust the tooth back to its normal position, and medication can be applied to the damaged area to promote healing. Dental X-Rays may be needed to survey the damage. For older children and adults, a root canal is often required to fully correct the damage. Sometimes a splint may be used to connect the loose tooth to healthy teeth around it for stability. Healing will take some time, and it is often necessary to visit the dentist regularly after an injury like this to track the healing process.
Knocked Out Tooth Treatment
If the tooth has been knocked out, the first order of business is to replace it back into the socket if you have not done so already. Don't forget, placing the tooth in your cheek or in a glass of milk will greatly increase the chances of the tooth surviving if it can be reinserted. Next, you'll want to get to the dentist or emergency room quickly. Each minute that goes by lessens the chances of saving the tooth. If you were able to reinsert the tooth, the dentist will inspect it to make sure it was done properly.
The next step is to stabilize the tooth so it doesn't fall out. This is done by connecting the loose tooth to nearby healthy teeth with wire or other devices. Essentially the dentist creates a temporary splint for the knocked out tooth. Medication may also be applied to aid in healing the tooth. Your dentist will have to carefully monitor the healing process to ensure the root survives and the tooth takes to the socket. Expect several follow up appointments to track progress. The dentist may have to take X-Rays and plan future root canals to survey and fix all the damage. The quicker you made it to emergency care, the better your child's prognosis for keeping the tooth.
What's the biggest thing to take away from this article? Always make sure your children wear mouthguards when playing contact sports! For those accidents that don't involve sports, always remember to act quickly and stay calm. In most circumstances the tooth can be saved if you get to care quickly. At Grace & Leedy Family Dentistry, we always keep appointment slots open for emergency care, and we encourage you to contact us immediately if your child (or you for that matter) sustain an injury to your teeth. If our office is closed, we recommend getting to an emergency room as soon as possible, and we'll be able to provide follow up care once the tooth is stabilized. We wish everyone a happy and safe summer season!