In this article, we wanted to bring together a couple of similar questions we have received to Ask a Dentist, all about kids dental emergencies and traumas:
My toddler fell in the playground and broke half of her front teeth off. After a few tears, she was OK, but should I take her to the dentist?
My baby hit his mouth on the shopping trolley yesterday. He banged three of his front tooth pretty hard and there was a bit of blood. Is there anything I should be keeping an eye out for?
My daughter was playing sports at school and got hit in the mouth with a ball. Her tooth cut her lip, so there was lots of blood and she now says that tooth hurts. What should I do?
The consequence of dental trauma may not be immediate
The important thing that parents and sportspeople alike need to remember is that the consequences of any impact to their teeth could be long-lasting and is difficult to quantify in the beginning.
In dentistry, we have the classic example of a girl who fell off a balcony 10 years previously, of which the trauma from that fall has only now
caused her nerves and teeth to abscess. We see these kinds of delays more often than you might think.
Why do dental traumas often have a delayed consequence?
A dental trauma pushes teeth up into the bone, which can compromise the blood supply. This may then reduce the vitality of that tooth over time. Another situation is where the trauma will cause a small crack in the tooth, which can then grow in size or snaps the tooth later through a normal bump or wear and tear at a later point in time.
In these cases, one larger trauma create half the problem, then another smaller trauma finishes it off.
Many of these cases result from a series of traumas experienced through sports. Many of them are surprised when a small injury or impact has such a big outcome, not realising that it has been occurring through multiple injuries.
What are your tips for reducing the chance of dental injuries due to sports?
The number one thing is to wear a mouthguard. All sports should have a ‘no mouthguard, no play’ rule for both training and games, but in truth, I don’t think all sports or clubs are that strict.
We see dental injuries from all range of sports including rugby, Aussie rules, netball, hockey and soccer. We even see injuries from touch football when patients have sustained an elbow to the face or simply run into one of their own team mates.
What do you think of chemist mouthguards?
When a sport recommends a mouthguard, then most people will simply trot off to the chemist and buy an over-the-counter mouthguard. In the cases of light bumps, etc, sometimes these mouthguards can be sufficient.
If there is a chance of getting a solid knock, then their effectiveness may not be there. With a dental custom-made mouthguard, the fact that it’s fitted properly makes the biggest difference. The tissues of the mouth are against the guard where it needs to be, so the guard doesn’t move around. This also makes it more comfortable and less distracting when sportspeople wear it.
If you get hit hard enough, nothing is going to save your teeth, but a snug-fitting mouthguard will provide greater protection for the lighter knocks and bumps.
Unusual dental traumas from sport
The common dental traumas from sport come from the ‘on-the-field’ interactions. However, we have seen some unusual ‘off-the-field’ dental traumas as well.
One young man came in after he got hit in the head by a water bottle. Turned out that he wasn’t paying full attention when his mum threw the water bottle, which hit him in the side of the jaw!
Another common case we have seen is when people (and in many cases kids) walk with a water bottle in their mouth. The water bottle gets knocked in some way and the tooth that its up against is knocked and killed by the jolt.
Dental traumas: kids will be kids
Most of the dental traumas we see are simply kids being kids. It might be riding their trike off a balcony or a simple trip, which bangs their teeth up into their gum. Unsurprisingly, we see more boys than girls coming in with these kinds of dental accidents or traumas.
In part two of this article series on kids dental trauma, we will look at What to do if your child has a dental accident.