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Acute Dental Trauma

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What is acute dental trauma?

Acute dental trauma is a serious injury to one or more parts of your mouth. Your injury may include damage to any of your teeth, the tooth socket, the tooth root, or your jaw. You can also have an injury to soft tissues, such as your 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 tooth
  • Bleeding from your gums, lips, face, or mouth
  • Trouble moving your jaw or mouth
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth

What should I do if my tooth falls out?

  • Find as much of the tooth as possible. Hold the tooth by the crown (top).
  • Rinse the tooth in cold water.
  • You can place a whole tooth back into the socket. Push firmly, but do not force the tooth in place. 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 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 saliva after you spit into a cup. Do not use tap water.

How is an acute dental trauma diagnosed and treated?

Your healthcare provider will examine your mouth and ask how you were injured. He or she will ask about your symptoms. Tell your provider if you have had surgeries or other procedures on your mouth. You may need an x-ray to check for damage to the bones in your face. Treatment will depend on the type of dental trauma you have. A tooth that moves slightly may heal on its own. You may also need any of the following:

  • Medicine may be given to decrease pain or prevent an infection. You may need a tetanus shot to prevent bacteria from getting into your wound. This may be needed if you have cut your mouth or gums on metal.
  • Stitches may be needed to close a wound in your mouth.
  • Surgery may be needed to repair your tooth or broken bones in your jaw.

What can I do to manage an acute dental trauma?

  • Apply ice on your 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.
  • Do not use your damaged tooth. Chewing food on your damaged tooth may put too much pressure on it and worsen your injury.
  • Eat soft foods or drink liquids for 1 week or as directed. Soft foods and liquids may be easier to eat until your injury heals. Soft foods include applesauce, pudding, mashed potatoes, gelatin, and ice cream.
  • Care for your mouth while you heal. Use a soft toothbrush. Rinse your mouth as directed. Your healthcare provider may recommend a solution that contains chlorhexidine 0.1%. This solution will help prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Rinse 2 times each day, or as directed.
  • Keep any soft tissue wounds clean. Use prescribed mouthwash as directed. You can also 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 wounds with hydrogen peroxide swabs. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on how to clean your wounds.
  • Ask about sports. Your healthcare provider may tell you not to play contact sports such as football until you heal. Wear protective gear when you play sports. Always wear a helmet and mouth guard that meet safety standards. These will prevent damage to your gums, teeth, and the bones that support your mouth.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have trouble breathing.

When should I seek immediate help?

  • You lose one or more of your teeth, or your tooth moves out of place.
  • You have severe bleeding in your mouth that does not stop after 10 minutes.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

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

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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

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