You turn away for less than a minute and your kid face-plants onto the ground — one of the worst things to witness as a parent. You close your eyes and hope there is no blood. Oh good, no blood. Next, you check his teeth … oh there it is, a loose tooth. Well at least it’s his baby tooth, right?
Baby tooth injuries can in fact affect his permanent teeth, with the most common injury being when the baby tooth gets pushed in, damaging the developing permanent tooth bud, according to Katie Stewart, pediatric dentist at Sea of Smiles Pediatric Dentistry. There are damaging injuries that are a little less common as well.
“Another less common injury is what is known as a chin tip injury, where a child may fall and hit their lower jaw on the ground for example,” she continues. “This can in turn damage the developing TMJ [jaw bones].”
Although some dental injuries are more common and harmful to the permanent teeth than others with the most common ones involving the front of the mouth, it’s always good to have that relationship with your pediatric dentist and make the phone call, just to be sure.
“We see all sorts of injuries in little ones!” says Stewart. “We see soft tissue (ie gum) injuries such as frenum tears and also hard tissue (ie tooth) injuries such as chipped teeth. Less commonly we can see more significant injuries where the baby tooth will actually need to come out.”
For those minor falls and bumps that cause gum abrasions or his lip to swell, they usually require ice, cool liquids and soft foods for a few days, according to John Gennantonio, pediatric dentist at Sea of Smiles Pediatric Dentistry.
“Injuries that cause bleeding, lingering pain, swelling, chipped, displaced or knocked out teeth should be seen by the dentist as soon as possible. When in doubt, call your dentist for advice,” he continues.
Of course, if you think it’s more severe, call 911 and head to the emergency room, says Lauren Capozza, DMD, at Loveland Pediatric Dentistry. Severe injuries include inability to close their mouth, eat, swallow, or signs/symptoms of head injury, loss of consciousness, uncontrolled bleeding, etc.
MAINTAIN A HEALTHY BITE
As soon as the first tooth pops up is when you should begin helping your kids maintain healthy eating and oral hygiene habits for healthier permanent teeth later. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, it’s recommended that the first visit to the dentist should be no later than your kids’ first birthday.
“At the initial visit, diet, proper brushing and flossing, fluoride toothpaste use, habits, oral injury prevention and growth and development are discussed amongst other things,” says Gennantonio. “This initial visit lays the foundation for a lifetime smile and establishes the important Dental Home.”
That initial visit also gives you a board certified pediatric dentist on call whenever you have any questions or concerns. It’s also comforting to know that your pediatric dentist has special training in dental injuries and child dental development and will know when an X-ray or treatment is needed, says Capozza.
“Most baby teeth injuries are just monitored by your dentist visually and/or with an X-ray, or may need over-the-counter pain medication and a soft diet,” she continues. “For baby teeth that are knocked out, do not place those back into the mouth because it can cause damage to the developing adult tooth. Knocked out baby teeth deserve an extra prize from the tooth fairy.”