What to Do When Your Child Injures a Tooth

What to Do When Your Child Injures a Tooth
Whether your child is an unsteady toddler or an active teenager fond of taking crazy risks, there is a chance they will have a fall that can break or damage teeth. If your child has broken a tooth, treatment will depend on whether it is a baby tooth or permanent tooth, and whether it has been completely knocked out or simply damaged.

A tooth can be broken, cracked, or chipped, and sometimes it may not even hurt. More severe damage to the tooth, however, probably will, and any remaining portions can easily cut tongue or inside of the mouth. If the break extends into the tooth’s pulp, where the nerves and blood vessels lie, that tooth will become more sensitive to temperature. Even in cases where they might not be complaining of pain, damaged teeth may eventually lead to further complications.

Your dentist can recommend the best method of treatment for a chipped or broken tooth. Treatment can depend on the size and location of the break or crack and sometimes if it is a very small crack, no treatment may be required. Typically, a break in the tooth can be fixed with a filling to repair the lost tooth structure, but a crown may also be required. Regardless of the severity, if your child cracks, chips, or breaks a tooth, you should contact your child's dentist right away.

But before you get to the dentist's office, there are a few important things you need to do:

• Inspect your child’s mouth to ensure that no pieces of tooth are stuck in the gums, tongue, or lips.
• Rinse your child's mouth with water.  

• If the area is bleeding, place a clean piece of wet gauze on top of the area and have them bite down on it, or simply hold it in place, for ten minutes, or until the bleeding stops.

• Keep a cold cloth on the area to reduce swelling.

• If the tooth came out whole, re-insert it, if possible, and hold in place by having them gently bite against a piece of clean, wet gauze.

• Save any broken teeth pieces if possible, and keep them moist in a cup of whole milk.

If it was a clean break, your dentist might be able to use a special glue to put the broken tooth back together for a temporary fix. Contact your pediatric dentist quickly. They can recommend and assure the best dental care for your family that will keep everybody smiling, even after an accident. If more than half the tooth is broken, the nerve may be exposed and may require immediate attention. In more mild cases where only a small part of the tooth is affected or there is a clean break, your dentist may simply smooth and polish the tooth, allowing it to fall out naturally when the permanent tooth under it grows in to replace it.

Teeth can also be dislodged but remain more-or-less in place in the jaw, requiring a dentist to reposition and stabilize it. Younger children may not need root canal treatment if their teeth are still developing, but root canal therapy is usually needed for permanent teeth that have been dislodged. Thankfully, the procedure isn't the nightmare it's portrayed as in sitcoms -- dental procedures and technology have come a long, long way. But for these patients, a dentist will monitor the healing process and multiple follow-up appointments will likely be needed.

Finally, it’s important to consider what to do if your child has knocked out the tooth completely.  If they have knocked out a baby tooth, the most important thing to remember is never try to replace it in the jaw. Doing so could damage the permanent tooth coming in behind it. Instead, put the knocked out tooth in a container of milk or saliva and contact your child's dentist right away. He or she can examine your child and take steps to manage pain and prevent infection.

If a permanent tooth has been knocked out, you want to replant it as quickly as possible since a permanent tooth has the best chance of survival if it's replanted within five minutes. Recover the tooth, but avoid touching or handling it by the root -- only handle the chewing surface, or crown. If a tooth is dirty, gently rinse it with clean water, but do not scrub it or use soap. Also do not dry the tooth and do not wrap it in a tissue or cloth. The sooner the tooth is replaced, the greater the likelihood it will survive. Replant the tooth in its socket and have your child bite down gently on a clean gauze or cloth. If you can't replant the tooth, place it in a clean container and keep it moist with whole milk. Don't use water -- the root cells in the tooth will not survive very long in plain water. If nothing else, try to have them carefully tuck the tooth into their mouth, against the cheek, taking care not to cut the inside of their mouth in the process.

To have the best chance of saving a permanent tooth under these conditions, try to get an appointment with an emergency dentist within 30 minutes of the injury. It is possible to save a tooth even if it has been outside the mouth for an hour or more, but sooner is definitely better -- the longer it has been removed from the mouth, the smaller the chances of salvaging it.


  1. Ah!! ONe of my biggest fears!! :o I hate dental pain and boy are the bills expensive too!! :P This is a great post though because I would be in all out panic mode over a broken or chipped tooth lol!

  2. This is great information. It's very scary when something like this happens and you don't have time to look up what you should do. Good to read this all ahead of time. Thanks!

  3. Perfect tips, you addressed everything that is needed to be done. A toothache is a painful thing, but addressing before by visiting your dentist regularly. But the 2nd most important thing to do is what you have listed. Thanks for sharing with us.

  4. Great info! This is something to share with kids and even adults to reinsert the tooth. I lost several when riding a horse. I couldnt find the teeth after it happened :/

    ellen beck


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