Tooth Trauma S.O.S.

Do you all feel the same dread as I do when my phone rings during the day and my caller ID shows that it’s my kids’ school?

One that I answered with dread was to tell me that my son had just had 2 permanent teeth knocked out by a golf club in Phys. Ed. Fortunately, the PE teacher and my son had the presence of mind to save the teeth fragments—and I had to do a quick refresher on what to do after dental trauma. The American Academy of Pediatrics has some helpful tips that I thought were worth sharing.

Tips about permanent teeth

Knocked-out permanent teeth can often be re-implanted and saved. Things to know to improve the odds of saving the tooth:

  • Find the tooth or fragment, if possible.
  • If the whole tooth came out, including the root, don’t pick up the tooth by the root.
  • Go to the dentist or emergency room as soon as possible.
  • Milk is your friend in this situation, especially milk with some fat in it. Skim milk is okay, and it’s better than water—but even water will do if that’s all you have.
  • Rinse the tooth with milk (or water, if no milk is available).
  • If the whole tooth came out, root and all, try to put the tooth back into its socket and use your thumb to push the tooth in.
  • To keep the tooth in place while you get to the dentist, place some gauze or a cloth over the tooth and have the child bite down on it with moderate firmness.
  • If you can’t get the tooth back in (or if the thought of doing that makes you queasy), put the tooth in a cup of cold milk, or in some of your child’s saliva (or in water, if neither is an option) and bring it with you.
  • There are patented solutions or liquids available at drug stores (e.g., Save-A-Tooth® or EMT Tooth Saver) that can protect a knocked-out tooth.  However, it’s been my experience that very few people actually have these products on hand at the time and place of injury.
  • Dentists do have some success re-bonding tooth fragments onto the root if the root hasn’t been knocked out and is still in the jaw.

Pointers for primary (baby) teeth

  • Don’t try to put a knocked-out baby tooth back into the mouth/socket—they usually can’t be re-implanted.
  • Have the child bite on a piece of gauze or cloth to control the bleeding.
  • Call the dentist as soon as possible to determine when your child should be seen.

Prevention

  • Encourage the use of mouth guards in all contact sports, even if the team or league does not require each child to use one.
  • Emphasize safety first when introducing sports to children—e.g., always require that children stand further away from one another than the length of the golf club, baseball bat, tennis racquet, or whatever equipment is being used.
  • If your child begins playing a sport or activity that could possibly result in a knocked-out tooth, invest in a couple of the tooth-saving products mentioned above, and recommend that the coach keep them with the team’s first aid kit.

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