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Acute Dental Trauma in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What is acute dental trauma?

Acute dental trauma is a serious injury to one or more parts of your child's mouth. The injury may include damage to any of your child's teeth, the tooth socket, the tooth root, or jaw. Your child can also have an injury to soft tissues, such as his or her tongue, cheeks, gums, or lips. Severe injuries can expose the soft pulp inside the tooth.

What are the signs and symptoms of acute dental trauma?

  • A tooth that is cracked, chipped, loose, out of place, or missing
  • A sharp or rough edge on your child's tooth
  • Bleeding from your child's gums, lips, face, or mouth
  • Trouble moving the jaw or mouth
  • A change in the way your child's teeth fit together when he or she closes his or her mouth

What should I do if my child's tooth falls out?

  • Find as much of the tooth as possible. Hold the tooth by the crown (top).
  • Rinse the tooth in cold water.
  • If the tooth was a permanent tooth, you can place a whole tooth back into the socket. Push firmly, but do not force the tooth in place. Have your child bite carefully a couple of times to make sure the tooth is in place.
  • It is important to get the tooth or pieces of the tooth to your child's dental provider as quickly as possible. Do not bring it dry. Place the tooth in cold milk, egg whites, coconut water, or salt water. You can also use your child's saliva after he or she spits into a cup. Do not use tap water.

How is an acute dental trauma diagnosed and treated?

Your child's healthcare provider will examine your child's mouth and ask how he or she was injured. The provider will ask about your child's symptoms. Tell the provider if your child has had surgeries or other procedures on his or her mouth. Your child may need an x-ray to check for damage to the bones in his or her face. Treatment will depend on the type of dental trauma your child has. A tooth that moves slightly may heal on its own. Depending on your child's age, he or she may also need any of the following:

  • Medicine may be given to decrease pain or prevent an infection. Your child may need a tetanus shot to prevent bacteria from getting into the wound. This may be needed if your child has cut his or her mouth or gums on metal.
  • Stitches may be needed to close a wound in your child's mouth.
  • Surgery may be needed to repair your child's tooth or broken bones in his or her jaw.

What can I do to manage an acute dental trauma?

  • Apply ice on your child's jaw or cheek for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you apply it. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Tell your child not to use the damaged tooth. Chewing food on a damaged tooth may put too much pressure on it and worsen the injury.
  • Have your child eat soft foods or drink liquids for 1 week or as directed. Soft foods and liquids may be easier to eat until the injury heals. Soft foods include applesauce, pudding, mashed potatoes, gelatin, and ice cream.
  • Care for your child's mouth while he or she heals. Have your child use a soft toothbrush and rinse his or her mouth as directed. Your child's healthcare provider may recommend a solution that contains chlorhexidine 0.1%. This solution will help prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Have your child rinse 2 times each day, or as directed.
  • Keep any soft tissue wounds clean. Use prescribed mouthwash as directed. Your older child can gargle with a salt water solution. To make the solution, mix 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 cup of warm water. You can also clean your child's wounds with hydrogen peroxide swabs. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on how to clean your child's wounds.
  • Ask about sports. Do not let your child play contact sports such as football until his or her healthcare provider says it is okay. Always have your child wear protective gear when he or she plays sports. Your child must wear a helmet and mouth guard that meet safety standards. These will prevent damage to your child's gums, teeth, and the bones that support his or her mouth.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your child has trouble breathing.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child loses one or more of his or her teeth, or a tooth moves out of place.
  • Your child has severe bleeding in his or her mouth that does not stop after 10 minutes.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has new symptoms, or symptoms become worse.
  • Your child feels pain when air gets in contact with the damaged tooth.
  • Your child has tooth pain when he or she eats foods that are hot, cold, sweet, or sour.
  • Your child's tooth color becomes darker.
  • You have questions or concern about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.