Dental trauma is any injury to any part of the mouth, such as the teeth, lips, gums, tongue, and jawbones. Sports, car accidents, physical fights, hard foods, and too-hot liquids are all potential causes of dental traumas. Broken or knocked-out teeth are the most common mouth injury.
The symptoms of dental trauma depend on the type of injury. Soft tissue injuries, such as cuts, burns or bruises to the lips, inner cheeks or tongue can result in pain, redness, swelling and possible bleeding. Broken teeth result in sharp edges that can potentially cut the soft tissue. Depending on the type of fracture, broken teeth may also result in toothache. A tooth that has been knocked out, or evulsed, will leave a swollen, painful and bloody socket.
A broken jawbone can lead to malocclusion (improper fit of the upper and lower teeth), jaw pain and limited movement in the temporomandibular joint, the joint that opens and closes the mouth.
A dentist / oral surgeon can easily recognize signs of trauma in the mouth. He or she may x-ray the mouth to detemine the extent of the damage. The sensitivity of the oral tissues means that mouth traumas tend to be painful, so prompt treatment of suspected traumas is recommended.
The type of treatment, too, depends on the type of injury.
For soft tissue injuries:
- reduce swelling with cold compresses
- controll bleeding by putting pressure with a clean gauze
- stitches can help deep punctures or lacerations
- painkillers such as aspirin or ibuprofen can reduce pain.
For broken teeth:
immediately rinse the injured tooth and surrounding gums with warm water to remove dirt
cover the area with a cold compress to lessen swelling and pain
save any pieces of the broken tooth. If an entire tooth has been knocked out, hold it by the crown (outer area), not the root
keep the tooth moist. Place it in milk, cool water, or saliva.
See a dentist / oral surgeon as soon as possible, preferably within thirty minutes. The sooner your dentist / oral surgeon treats the problem, the better the chances of salvaging the tooth.
If the pulp, or inner core, of a chipped tooth is still intact, the dentist can smooth out the chipped area and replace the missing section with a resin filling.
If you have saved the missing piece of tooth, it may be possible to bond it back into place.
If the pulp is in tact but a large part of the outer tooth structure is missing, the dentist / oral surgeon can protect the remaining parts of the tooth by covering it with a crown.
If the pulp has been damaged, your tooth may need root canal treatment followed by a protective crown.
Dentist / oral surgeon try to save teeth whenever possible; however, if the tooth structure is damaged beyond repair, it may be necessary to extract the tooth and consider other options, like dental implants. If a baby tooth is knocked out, your dentist will likely not try to salvage it, as the body will often reject it. He or she will instead treat the socket as a soft tissue injury. He or she may recommend using a space maintainer, a device to prevent the remaining teeth to shift into the gap left by the missing one, potentially causing crowding when the permanent teeth begin to erupt.
For broken jaws:
See your dentist / oral surgeon immediately. He or she must set it back to its proper position, and will likely supply wires to hold it into place. Healing can take up to six weeks or more, depending on your age and the degree of your injury.
With immediate care, most dental traumas will eventually result in full recovery.
Like all traumas, mouth injuries can result in infection; if this occurs, your doctor can prescribe antibiotics.
Dental trauma is highly preventable. To reduce the risk, do the following:
- wear seat belts in cars, and ensure young children are secured in car seat
- child-proof areas of your homes such as stairs, table edges, and loose electircal wires
- eliminate tripping hazards from your home and office
- wear mouthguards and helmet during sports, especially contact sports or any activity involving speed, potential falls, and potential contact with a hard surface or piece of equipment (such as skateboarding, in-line skating, and bicycling).