The time when toddlers are the most curious and uncoordinated—around 18-36 months—is also the period when they\’re most likely to injure their baby teeth. Accidents can happen anywhere at any time, but most dental injuries in toddlers and preschoolers happen as a result of falling down. As kids get older, sports accidents are typically to blame for trauma to adult teeth.
A tooth can get chipped, broken, or even knocked out. When a tooth, along with its root, gets completely knocked out of the mouth, dentists refer to it as “avulsed.” Knowing how to handle an avulsed tooth can actually help to save it.
If a baby tooth gets knocked out, most dentists suggest that it should not be put back in. Trying to replant it could cause damage later on to the permanent, adult tooth developing underneath it. An adult tooth will eventually replace the missing one. Simply rinse your child’s mouth with cold water and place clean, wet gauze over the empty space to stop any bleeding and reduce swelling. If your child experiences pain or soreness, you can offer an age-appropriate pain reliever. You should call your pediatric dentist to schedule an exam so the injury can be assessed.
When a permanent tooth has been knocked out and it is still whole (not in pieces), there is a very good chance of saving it if you act quickly. The most important things are to keep the tooth moist, avoid touching its root, and contact your dentist immediately.
First, find the tooth. Make sure your child hasn’t swallowed it or aspirated it into the airway. Even if you’re not sure if the tooth was a baby or permanent one, call a dentist (or even the emergency room) right away. Hold the tooth by the top (crown) and not the root, or you can risk damaging it. Rinse the tooth with milk or saline and gently place it back in the empty socket. If this makes your child uncomfortable, or if you cannot replace it, keep the tooth in a cup of milk saliva to keep it moist. Never put a tooth in a cup of water!
Try to get to your pediatric dentist immediately. The tooth has a much better chance of being implanted the faster you respond.
Dental injuries like this can be avoided if proper precautions are taken. Childproof your home with padding on sharp edges and gates at the tops and bottoms of staircases. Remind your child to wear a helmet when biking, skating, or scooting, as well as a mouth guard when playing sports. It’s also a good idea to keep your dentist’s emergency phone number in your cellphone.
- Duke University Health System
- Dental Emergency: What to do when you child injures a tooth.
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
- What should I do if my child falls and knocks out a tooth?
Boston Children’s Hospital
- Teeth Injuries in Children.
Johns Hopkins Medicine
- The Importance of Mouthguards.
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