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Dental Trauma: Do you know what to do?

April 2019

Imagine falling down and cracking or completely losing one or both of your front teeth. Maybe you are holding your grandchild and they swing their head and knock your front teeth. If you have a child that plays sports, picture he/she getting injured in the face while scoring that goal or landing that lay up and their front tooth gets displaced. These scenarios are unpleasant to think about but can happen to any of us at any time. It is important to know what to do to save your tooth .

Who is at risk?

Traumatic dental injuries occur often in children and young adults, comprising 5% of all injuries.! Twenty‐five percent of all school children experience dental trauma and 33% of adults have experienced trauma to the permanent dentition, with the majority of the injuries occurring before age 19. 1 While children, young adults and athletes are at greater risk for dental trauma, it can happen to anyone at anytime.

Dental trauma can result in:

Fracture of the tooth. This is defined as the tooth breaking above the gum line and one portion completely separating. If nerve tissue is exposed infection and even tooth loss is possible. Treatment depends on severity and location of fracture. You should rinse you mouth with salt water and see your dentist immediately.

Another form of trauma is intrusion which is the tooth being pushed into the bone and out of line with the other teeth. In this case, the bone is likely fractured and you should again be seen immediately by a dentist 

One last category of trauma is extrusion or luxation. Which is the tooth being pushed out of the socket and or the tooth being completely dislodged from the mouth, respectively. In this scenario, most people have no idea what to do to preserve the dislodged tooth and give it the best possible chance of being re-implanted.  First stay calm and try to find the tooth. Hold the tooth by the crown NOT the root.2 Rinse the root in water to remove any dirt or debris.2 Don’t scrub it or remove any attached tissue fragments.2 If it’s possible, gently insert and hold the tooth in its socket while you make your way to the dentist. If that’s not possible, put the tooth in a cup of milk and bring it to the dentist with you.2

Any of these scenarios constitute a true dental emergency and time is a critical factor.  Waiting can increase the chance of losing the tooth entirely. An emergency by definition is an unexpected occurrence so it is difficult to prevent something we can’t predict will occur. Children who play sports should always wear mouth guards, that is only half the battle in protecting our teeth. It’s even more important to know what to do should a dental traumatic injury occur.


  1. International association of dental traumatology 2012
  2. American dental Association : Dental Trauma
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