If you are a parent, chances are you spend most of your time focusing on your kid’s well-being. Knowing what to do during a child’s dental emergency can help ensure good oral health even if an unexpected accident or other trauma happens.
We hope this guide will make your job easier by giving you strategies to deal with an accident or emergency. Like any other kind of first aid, we hope you never have to use it, but a little knowledge goes a long way.
Signs Your Child Needs Emergency Dental Care
First, learn to recognize the signs that a child may need emergency dental care. Sometimes it may be obvious, but other times you may not have seen the incident but notice something weird. If your child is showing any of these signs, call our office ASAP to seek emergency care. We can save your child’s tooth and get them back to being a kid in no time.
- Your child just fell from their bike or had a sports accident.
- You notice your child wincing in pain while drinking or eating.
- You observe abnormal, extreme bleeding in the mouth.
- Your child has a sudden loss of appetite.
- Your child exhibits out-of-character or unusual behavior, like a normally talkative child is now silent.
- Your child has difficulty sleeping from pain and extreme tiredness.
- You notice the child keeps putting fingers in their mouth or running their tongue around the mouth.
Ask your child what happened. Look in their mouth to see whether you notice anything different. Some dental trauma may come from an accident, like falling off a bicycle or getting hit in the face with a ball. Other sources can be chronic building up over time due to genetic predisposition or regular habits. Either way, the sooner a dentist or endodontist can examine the child, the sooner they can resume a healthy childhood.
What Kind of Emergencies May Happen
We don’t mean to inspire doom scrolling, but we hope to notice some of the common and uncommon dental emergencies that may help you identify one if it happens.
- Accidents: Accidents are part of life. As a parent, you are likely aware of some of the accidents common during childhood, including falling, running into a stationary object, and getting hit with a ball or other flying object. Car or bicycle accidents are also potential sources of dental trauma.
- Decay or gum disease: Many kids love candy and sweets but may be a little lax with their flossing and brushing. It is possible for a tooth to decay badly or even get infected. You may not even notice until the damage progresses to the point where your child suffers.
- Cracks: A tooth may get cracked, fractured, or broken by biting down on hard objects like unpopped popcorn, chewing pens, using teeth as tools to open packages, or even chronic grinding.
- Impacted tooth or wisdom tooth: Kids, and especially teens, sometimes experience sudden pain and infection from problems with a tooth, especially one of the wisdom teeth.
- Injuries to soft tissues like the lips, cheeks, tongue, or roof of the mouth.
What to Do During a Dental Emergency
First, try to stay calm, as that will help your child stay calm. Quickly try to get as much information as possible without panicking.
If a permanent tooth gets knocked out, collect the tooth or fragments. The American Association of Endodontists advises you to see a dentist or endodontist within 30 minutes. But be careful; hold the tooth by the crown, not the root. If it is dirty, gently rinse it with milk. If possible, carefully reposition it in the tooth socket.
A cracked tooth is also fairly common after an accident. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends rinsing your child’s mouth with warm water and using an ice pack or cold compresses to reduce swelling while you wait for treatment.
Many accidents that may damage the tooth may also cause traumatic head injuries. In that case, visit the emergency room or urgent care first to ensure your child doesn’t have a concussion. The emergency room staff may contact a dentist or an endodontist who offers emergency care.
Preventing Dental Emergencies
Try these strategies to minimize the risk of dental emergencies. Of course, life always carries some risks, but these habits will make dental emergencies less likely to happen.
Develop a solid long-term relationship with a dentist. Find someone your child feels comfortable with. Keeping up with your child’s recommended preventative oral health visits decreases the odds of cavities, gum disease, and other oral health problems going undiagnosed and getting worse.
Encourage consistent oral hygiene habits like brushing twice a day and flossing daily. If your kid wears braces or other dental appliances, your orthodontist or dentist may have additional guidelines. By staying consistent with oral hygiene, you decrease the risk of the teeth becoming prematurely weak and vulnerable to damage during an accident. Also, there is less likelihood of cavities developing.
If your kid plays contact sports, have them wear a mouth guard to reduce the risk of a dental emergency from a sports accident. On the subject of accidents, be sure your child always wears a seatbelt or sits in a car seat when traveling in a car. Whenever your child rides a bike or scooter, make sure they also wear a helmet.
Finally, be sure to teach your child not to use teeth as tools. Some dental emergencies are the result of biting hard foods, opening packages with teeth, or chewing pencils or pens.
Next Steps: Contact an Endodontist
During your child’s emergency care or follow-up, you may learn that your child needs to see an endodontist. Endodontists are specialist dentists focused on saving natural teeth. They perform root canals and other restorative treatments, often following trauma.
If you live in or near Charlotte, NC, the team at Ballantyne Endodontics is here to help. Our compassionate and skilled endodontists help restore oral health after dental trauma from accidents, genetics, severe decay, and damage caused by chronic habits like tooth grinding. We also provide emergency care. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.