Toothbusters – How to Respond to Oral Trauma

Man with toothache

Boise families want to protect themselves and their children. We have padded playgrounds, mouthguards, and helmets, but our normally resilient bodies will always find a way for something to happen, no matter how many precautions we take.

Accidents will happen, but what are you supposed to do when urgent problems arise? Should you see a dentist at a dental practice or go to a doctor? Is it an emergency, and how should we treat the problem until we receive help?

We are here to help with all of these questions.

When to See a Doctor

When a dental accident occurs, the first priority is to assess the severity of it. Depending on what happened and what the result was, you may be able to just see your dentist as soon as you can, or the situation may call for immediate medical attention.

In all of the situations below, take the injured straight to a medical doctor:

  1. Anytime anyone loses consciousness, take them straight to the ER. If there are dental problems to take care of, we will see to them after more pressing issues (such as concussions or trauma) have been taken care of.
  2. If a permanent tooth is broken (particularly by impact to the head or face) or if it has gone missing/been swallowed. If the injury was caused by an impact to the head, go straight to the doctor. If the tooth was broken in some other fashion and you are sure there isn’t head trauma (bit into something hard, for instance), see the dentist as soon as possible.
  3. Jaw pain occurs when opening or closing the mouth. These types of injuries often come to the dentist because it’s believed to be a tooth problem, as the pain radiates through the jaw. TMD can be quite painful, but is usually caused by a muscular problem at the joint or by a problem in the ear. See the doctor as soon as possible to rule out the other possibilities, and then your dentist can help you with a more specific solution if it is dental-related.
  4. Severe cuts or punctures in or around the mouth can bleed a lot. If a child takes a hard fall and their teeth puncture soft tissue, or cut is deep, prolonged bleeding may occur. In these situations, sutures (or other solutions) may be needed, so go straight to the doctor.
  5. Any object stuck in the mouth or throat requires urgent medical attention, if it can’t be unstuck. Anything that is causing trouble (or could) with the airway should be taken to the ER immediately.

What You Need to do in the Meantime

Boy comforted by mom

OK, so those are the emergencies. What else should you do during a case of oral trauma?

That depends on the situation.

Losing a tooth – You might be pleased to know that the tooth can be saved, but you have to do a few things to improve the odds. First, rinse the tooth with water, but don’t touch the root side. Get the tooth (and its pieces, if it is broken) into a cup of milk, and see the dentist at a dental practice as soon as possible. We will handle it from there.

Broken tooth – If a tooth is chipped or broken, follow the steps above for the portions that were taken out. Care for the injured tooth by gently applying fluoride toothpaste into the fracture. As expected, get in to a dentist as soon as possible.

Detached crown – Clean the crown, but don’t attempt to put it back in yourself. Make a dentist appointment to replace the crown correctly.

Cuts/general wounds – Apply gauze to stop the bleeding. You can use vaseline to keep the gums moist. At your discretion, ibuprofen may be used to help the patient deal with pain. Make sure to follow proper dosing guidelines and label instructions.

Be Prepared

We can’t prevent every accident, and due to the nature of the word “accident”, the best we can do is be prepared for when they eventually occur. Keep basic medical supplies on hand, and always have the contact information for your dentist and family physician with you.

Feel free to call us at anytime if you have questions.

~Dr. Wagner