Accidents can happen to children anytime and anywhere. Falling off a skateboard, getting hit in the face with a baseball, or just biting into a hard candy can cause chipped or lost teeth. Knowing what to do when a dental emergency occurs can mean the difference between saving a child’s teeth and serious damage to their smile and their health.
“Early access to dental care can really affect the outcome,” says Dr. Victor Kutcher, President of the Ontario Dental Association (ODA). “Get to a dentist as soon as you can to prevent infection and increase the chances of saving the tooth.”
Be prepared before an accident happens. While dentists will accommodate patients with emergencies during office hours, talk to your dentist about where to go for after-hours emergency care. Your dentist will provide you with an alternate phone number or the location of an emergency dental clinic in your area. Have this information readily available – post it on your refrigerator or store the number in your cell phone.
Here are some tips on how to deal with common childhood dental emergencies.
Contact your dentist as soon as possible. If there is bleeding, rinse the mouth with water and place gauze in the opening. You can also apply cold compresses on the outside of the mouth to reduce swelling. Keep the child calm instead of looking for the tooth – baby teeth will never be replanted. Never try to reinsert the tooth into the opening – you may damage the permanent teeth growing underneath.
Find the tooth. Rinse it gently in cool water; do not scrub it or use soap. If possible, gently place the tooth in the socket and hold it there with clean gauze or wash cloth. If the tooth does not fit in the socket, or if you think the child may swallow the tooth, place it in a container of milk. Bring the child to immediate dental care.
If your child is bleeding or in pain, contact the dentist immediately. Fast action can save the tooth, prevent infection and reduce the need for extensive dental treatment. Rinse the mouth with water and apply cold compresses to reduce swelling. If you can find the broken tooth fragment, bring it to the dentist.
Many dental emergencies can be prevented. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, sports accidents reportedly account for 10 to 39% of all dental injuries in children.
Any sport or activity with a strong chance for contact with other participants or hard surfaces requires mouth protection. Players who participate in basketball, baseball, soccer, wrestling, squash, racquetball, lacrosse, rugby, in-line skating and martial arts, or even recreational sports such as skateboarding and bicycling, should wear mouthguards when practicing or competing. Talk to your dentist about the type of mouth protection that is right for your child.
For more information on other oral health topics, go to www.youroralhealth.ca.