Like every other part of your body, teeth are susceptible to accidental injury. Chips, cracks, full tooth loss or intrusion (where the tooth is pushed back up into the gum) can all cause long-term dental health problems, especially if they are not addressed right away.
Tooth injuries can occur in everyday activities. Slips and falls, sports injuries or even biting into ice can cause trauma to a tooth. Here’s what you need to know about tooth injuries and how you should respond when they occur.
Types of Injuries
The severity of the type of tooth injury you receive can dictate what care you should give.
Chips are the most common type of injury, especially for children who do not yet have fully developed eyesight and balance. Fortunately, chipped teeth can be fixed most of the time with dental bonding, similar to how cavities are fixed with fillings. Larger chips may require some cosmetic restructuring.
If your tooth is chipped, it is important to see a dentist, even if you have no pain. It’s too hard to tell without an exam whether or not a chip extends beyond the protective enamel of your teeth. Some chips may not need to be filled if they don’t penetrate into the softer dentin of the tooth, but only a dentist can tell you for sure what needs to be done.
Cracks are more severe than chips. Most cracks extend down into the root of the tooth. They can also ruin the structural stability of the tooth. If a crack is obvious and immediately painful, this means the root may be affected. If the crack extends that deeply, the risk of infection is high.
A dentist may treat a cracked tooth with a root canal, depending on the type of crack, and then add structural support and stability with a dental crown and sealant.
With great force, some teeth can be knocked backward or forward, becoming loose in the socket. Resist the urge to wiggle any loose tooth, especially if the tooth in question is a permanent tooth.
You might feel that waiting it out is the best solution for loose teeth after trauma, but you should see a dentist immediately. Some loose teeth will not self-heal, and you could end up losing the tooth if the gums or tooth roots are damaged. Your dentist may help the tooth stay in place by splinting it to your other teeth or by inserting supports alongside the loose tooth.
One of the more serious dental injuries is when the force of trauma causes a tooth to be completely knocked out. Fortunately, these teeth can sometimes be saved if you act quickly. You should make sure to put the tooth back into the socket if the tooth has not left your mouth. If the tooth is too dirty or if the mouth is too swollen to reinsert the tooth, you can:
- Keep the tooth in your mouth. This is the next best option to reinsertion.
- Rinse the tooth with water, but do not brush or sterilize it. This is only needed if the tooth fell on the ground and became dirty.
- Store the tooth in milk. If the tooth fell out of the mouth, storing it in milk can help to preserve it.
You should get to a dentist as quickly as possible in order to save your tooth. After a half hour passes, the chances of restoring your original tooth begin to decline.
A very serious dental injury is intrusion. This is where the tooth is pushed into the gums. When this occurs in children who still have baby teeth, the force of the push can harm the adult teeth that have not yet erupted. In adults, it can mean trauma to the jaw, the gums and to the tooth itself.
Major intrusion is a dental emergency and will require surgery to correct. If the intrusion is minor, your teeth might correct by themselves, but this requires observation over the course of a few weeks. Without intervention, the tooth and tissues surrounding it can begin to die, resulting in tooth loss and infection.
After you’ve received the proper dental care for your teeth, you also need to be aware of possible complications. For example, a simple chipped tooth may actually slowly begin to die after. After the tooth dies, the body can attack it, causing an abscess.
Abscess after trauma is not uncommon. The first signs of an abscess are pain at the infection site, fever and swelling. The infection needs to be treated with antibiotics as soon as possible because these infections can spread quickly and become life threatening.
You can help to prevent infections and pain after trauma by carefully caring for and cleaning affected teeth. You should also make sure to follow your dentist’s instructions carefully.
For more information on tooth health and general care, contact Apollo Dental Center.