Trauma to Baby Teeth: What Parents Need to Know

Trauma to Baby Teeth: What Parents Need to Know
Posted on 06/08/2017
Trauma to Baby Teeth

Tooth injuries are an unfortunate reality, especially for young children who have not developed the best coordination and muscle control. Many times, tooth injuries are superficial, and they heal just as quickly as an injury to any other part of a fast-growing child's body.

However, other times, the injury can be severe, and it could potentially affect your child's dental health for years to come. Every parent should be prepared for tooth injuries and know how detect the signs of more serious harm.

When a Tooth Is Chipped

The most common injury to a tooth is a chip. Young children might chip a tooth when falling down, playing at the park, or even when taking a bath at home. Chipped teeth are not usually a dental emergency, but you should make an appointment to have the tooth examined shortly after the accident.

Some chips are not serious. They may not even extend deep enough to harm the tooth. If your child is very young and the chip is shallow, your dentist might recommend waiting a year or two before filling the chip so your child will be able to sit still for the appointment.

However, some chips can break through the enamel of a baby tooth, exposing the soft dentin underneath. These chips will need to be filled immediately to prevent further decay. Don't rely on your own exam to determine whether or not a chip is serious. Some chips may look mild, but even a hairline crack in the dentin will expose the tooth to harmful bacteria.

When a Tooth Is Knocked Loose

When your child's tooth is knocked hard enough to make it loose in the socket, there can be some cause for concern, but your child will normally recover quickly. Your child might:

  • experience some bleeding from the gums around the tooth.

  • have some swelling, like a bruise, from the force of the blow.

  • complain of some tooth pain and soreness.

  • have trouble chewing with the loose tooth.

These are normal symptoms of a loosened tooth because of trauma. The best solution is to encourage soft foods and to keep your child from playing with the loose tooth as it resettles and heals. However, you should still have the tooth examined by a dentist, because sometimes a tooth can have deep nerve damage.

In rare cases, the permanent tooth might become damaged, especially if the baby tooth is forced upwards into the socket. An x-ray will help determine whether or not there is any damage.

When a Tooth Is Lost

With a lot of external force, your child may actually lose his or her tooth. Usually, if the tooth is a primary or baby tooth, your dentist might recommend just allowing the Tooth Fairy to come and collect the tooth. Replacing the tooth might actually affect the growth of the primary tooth, and it's often not worth the risk. A spacer can help keep your child's teeth from crowding.

A dental exam is still necessary to make sure that there are no underlying problems from the accident, but you won't have to worry about chewing food or speech problems. It will only be a short while before the primary tooth comes to fill in the gap.

Dangers and Concerns

Each of the above situations can lead to more serious dental problems. Parents might become concerned to see a tooth turning grey or brown shorty after trauma. This is normal for damaged teeth.

Think of the discoloration as a bruise. Increased blood flow to broken vessels in the tooth leads to the grayish tinge. It sometimes fades, but many times, the tooth will stay slightly darker than its fellows. The lack of rich blood supply to the tooth will not fully resolve the change in color. In a baby tooth, this is not a concern most of the time.

In months following the trauma, whether it was a chip or a loose tooth, be careful to watch the tooth for signs of trouble. Even if the color does not fully return, the tooth could be perfectly healthy, and it will remain that way with the right hygiene.

In rare cases, though, sometimes the pulp inside the tooth can die as a reaction to the trauma and reduced blood flow to the tooth. An abscess will form. These infections are painful and often result in tooth loss for young children. The only other alternative is a root canal, but the care and expense required is often too much for a baby tooth, considering the tooth will fall out to make way for adult teeth.

Signs of abscess include a high fever, gum and facial swelling, and great pain. Some children may not be able to communicate the pain they are feeling. For example, if a front tooth becomes abscessed, a child might complain of nasal pain, even though the infection is based in the root of the tooth.

Abscesses are a medical and dental emergency because these infections can spread and infect tissue throughout the body. Treatment include rounds of antibiotics to fight the infection and the removal of the tooth.

For more information about early childhood tooth care, contact us at Treasured Smiles Dentistry. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality of care for all patients.