Accidents are part of life and dental injuries can happen in a wide variety of ways. Children can be prone to picking up knocks along with sports injuries resulting in broken teeth. Sometimes you can suffer from a chipped tooth or a cracked crown simply by biting down on something unexpectedly hard. Your steps following a dental injury will depend on its nature but for most you may need to act quickly. If you don’t need attention of any other kind after an accident that takes priority, you should get to a dentist as soon as you can. If outside of normal opening hours, you can visit an emergency dentist.
If the tooth has been knocked out but is still intact, you should attempt to 're-implant' it back into its gum socket. Before you do this, clean it by rinsing it in milk. Do not rinse the tooth with water, as this will damage the cells that line the roots. If you manage to get the lost tooth back in your gum, bite down on a clean handkerchief to keep it in place until you can get to your dentist for emergency first aid treatment.
If you cannot get the tooth back into its socket, keep it either in milk, or saliva. A good solution is to hold it in your mouth between your gum and cheek (taking care not to swallow it).
For a chipped tooth, treatment will vary on the severity of the damage. For minimal damage, your dentist will likely use a tooth coloured filling, called composite bonding, to even out the appearance of the tooth. However, if the chip impacted on the 'pulp' at the centre of the tooth, then the nerves and blood vessels within may die. If this is the case the damaged tooth will likely need root canal treatment. Your dentist will carry out tests to help establish if the nerve is damaged.
The roots can be damaged without any obvious evidence and your dentist will carry out an X-ray. If the pulp within the tooth remains healthy and the tooth is firm, things can probably be left as they are and you will just need regular check-ups to make sure no problems develop in the future. If the tooth has been loosened then it may need to be splinted to the adjacent teeth for short-term support whilst the tooth ligament firms up.
What are the replacement solutions if I lose a tooth?
There are a number of options, but the options will be based on the clinical and X-ray assessment which will need to be established by your dentist.
Orthodontic treatment can realign your remaining teeth in such a way that masks the gap. This will require you to wear braces, which could take months or even years to be fully effective.
A bridge involves a false tooth being fixed in place by adhering it to the sides of the neighbouring teeth.
Implants require a titanium fitting which replaces the root structure of the absent tooth. Once this fitting has fused with the bone, an artificial tooth can be permanently fixed to the implant.
Dentures are an effective treatment to provide a replacement tooth for the short term before a permanent tooth replacement is carried out.
Some fractures may be so severe that only tooth removal is possible. The tooth might need to be replaced or, in the case of pulp damage, you could need to undergo a root canal.
After any kind of dental injury, it is wise to carry out regular clinical checks for damage that develops over some months or even years. Pulp (nerve tissue) can degenerate and die some time after the initial accident, so look out for tooth discolouration. In some extreme circumstances the root degenerates and can lead to the need for root canal treatment or tooth removal.
My child took a knock to their milk teeth. Will their adult teeth be affected?
Possibly. Adult teeth develop inside the gums from the time the child is a baby until they are ready to come through, usually aged around 8. This is a crucial time for their development and damage to a milk tooth at this stage could alter the adult tooth underneath. This could be in the form of discolouration, a change in the tooth's shape or the angle at which the adult tooth will eventually protrude.
My tooth has been knocked down into my gum. Will it correct itself?
These are known as intrusion injuries and treatment for it depends on your age.
If you suffer an intrusion injury whilst your roots are still growing then the tooth will usually right itself of its own accord, normally within a few weeks. If not, you can have the tooth gently moved back into position with the use of an orthodontic brace.
If the root is fully developed at the time of the accident, your tooth won't have the same capacity to recover, compared to a young adult tooth. If the blood supply to the 'pulp' at the core of the tooth is cut off then the tooth will die. If this happens the tooth can still be moved back into place with a brace, but you will also need a root canal to remove the pulp and stabilise the health of the tooth.
This article was provided by Toothpick, the leading provider of online dentist appointments in the UK.