What is dental trauma?
Dental trauma is the term used to describe any force applied to your mouth, oral tissues, jaw, or teeth that results in damage. This can be hard foods or objects, accidents such as slips and falls, fights, or commonly sports-related injuries. Tooth trauma can result in many problems. They could be:
- Chipped teeth
- Chipped or broken restorations (fillings, crowns, veneers etc.)
- Dislodged teeth
- Fractured teeth
- Knocked-out teeth (extruded teeth)
- Intruded teeth (pushed into your gums)
- Dental root fractures
- Cracked teeth
- Broken jaw
- All sorts of issues to do with split lips and teeth biting into them
- Non- vital or grey teeth
How do I know whether I have dental trauma?
It’s pretty obvious, doing something to a traumatised tooth usually hurts a lot but you can see whether you have traumatised tooth by checking if any of your teeth have loosened, dislocated, chipped, avulsed, bled, or fractured after the trauma. However, there are also instances wherein some traumatised teeth doesn’t show any visible signs of damage. You may also have a traumatised tooth if you have these symptoms:
- Tooth pain without swelling
- Death of dental pulp
- Infection or abscess
- Exposed dentine or root tissues
What should I do if I have a traumatised tooth?
If you a have a tooth that’s knocked clean out, it is often saveable, but only if you follow these instructions:
Time AND care are important determining factors as to whether it can still be put back in its socket.
Make sure to pick the tooth up by its crown (the top) and take extra care NOT TO TOUCH THE TOOTH BY THE ROOT.
Then, gently and carefully clean the tooth with cold gently running water (NEVER HOT) and just air dry by waving around, not using a paper towel or such; there are many cells alive on the root surface so you don’t want to kill them just to get off any dirt or bits that the tooth has accumulated when on the ground. These are what determines whether the tooth will take back in or not.
Best thing you can do is actually put it straight back in the socket once cleaned. The quicker this is done the better the prognosis.
Get some foil and squeeze this over it to hold it in place , then see a dentist asap.
If you can’t put it back yourself, make sure to immerse the whole tooth in milk or keep it in your cheek in saliva but be careful not to swallow it then go to your dentist immediately to have the tooth placed back in and splinted. This also goes for fractured teeth. If your tooth has broken, make sure to keep the broken piece and take it to your dentist as soon as possible, sometimes it can be re-attached.
Time is critical so the important thing to remember is the sooner you have the traumatised tooth treated at a dentist, the greater the chance of it being saved.
You can do these steps to reduce bleeding or swelling while en route to the dentist:
- Place a cold pack over the site where the traumatised tooth is
- If there’s bleeding, apply pressure to the area or bite down very gently on a gauze. Don’t do this- if you have re-inserted the tooth- try to avoid putting any pressure on it.
What kind of dentist should I go to for help?
Doesn’t really matter initially, time is more important for the emergency procedure, you can figure out who will treat the tooth afterwards. Just get into the closest dentist that you can and make sure they are aware of the situation. If your face is severely affected and broken bones a possibility then it would be better to present to Accident and emergency at the hospital. Depending on the kind of oral trauma you may have, you may need an endodontist, periodontist, prosthodontist, pediatric dentist or oral/maxillofacial surgeon to treat you. In extensive cases it may be a combination of specialists.
Do children receive the same dental trauma treatment as adults?
Unlike adults, and depending on the child’s age (under 13), it is most likely that some baby teeth are still present. The stage of development is important in the treatment. Baby teeth are treated differently from permanent teeth. For example, if a child’s baby tooth has been knocked out, the tooth shouldn’t be placed back to its socket as it can damage or hinder the growth of the permanent teeth, it should just be left. If the child’s traumatised tooth is a permanent tooth but not fully developed yet, i.e. the root that you can’t see hasn’t finished its growth the treatment required can be quite complex and long term. It will involve many visits and your dentist will need to give special attention to monitoring its growth. However, if the traumatised tooth is already a fully-developed permanent teeth, its treatment should be the same as adults and will need immediate treatment generally this will be a root canal if it has been knocked out.
Will my traumatised tooth need special attention after the treatment?
Yes, regular follow-ups with your dentist are very important to make sure that the re-implanted tooth is successfully accepted by its surrounding area. Occasionally root resorption occurs where your body rejects the re-implanted tooth and starts eating away at itself. Sometimes this can be treated successfully but in the majority of cases the tooth will end up being extracted.