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What To Do If Your Child Breaks Their Teeth

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a close up image of a child whose front tooth has cracked in half horizontally

Broken Teeth in Children

Teeth are made of tough stuff. The outer layer of teeth, enamel, is the hardest tissue in the human body—even tougher than bone. Although an effective defensive layer, it’s still vulnerable to erosion, chips, and breaks. 

When a child breaks or chips a tooth, it can be startling. Anytime a tooth is broken, whether an adult or child, you should call your dentist for emergency dental care. But you can take steps at home to reduce the risk of harm and even save the tooth!

Broken or Chipped Tooth Symptoms

When a tooth is broken, cracked, or chipped, whether or not the damage seems obvious, it removes enamel. Removing any amount of that defensive outer layer increases risks to the more sensitive inner tooth layers. An untreated broken tooth can collect bacteria, risking infection, abscess, or nerve damage.

Some breaks or chips are obvious, and it’s likely your child will voice some complaints after a tooth injury. But, sometimes, a crack or chip may be small. It’s best to book a pediatric dental exam after any mouth area injury, just in case.

Symptoms you may notice include:

  • Bleeding
  • Difficulty eating
  • Swelling or pain
  • Tooth discolouration

What to Do When Your Child Breaks a Tooth

Take a deep breath and try to keep your child calm. Check for other injuries or excessive bleeding. Assess if they have difficulty breathing, potentially indicating they’ve swallowed a tooth fragment

If you suspect they may have inhaled a piece of their tooth or they have additional injuries, go to the emergency room as soon as possible.

If there’s no immediate danger, try locating the tooth fragment. Generally, finding smaller pieces can be challenging, but a larger piece may be easier to locate. If you find a portion of your child’s tooth, place it in a clean container, either soaking in milk or your child’s saliva.

Your child should gently rinse their mouth with clean water. Then, apply a cold compress (outside the mouth) to reduce swelling.

Most of the time, a chipped or broken tooth can be saved. Call your dentist as soon as possible. They may be able to reattach larger pieces, so bring any fragments with you to your appointment. Your child’s dentist may use a dental filling to repair the tooth for more minor cracks or chips. Larger breaks may require a crown or root canal treatment.

Receiving treatment as soon as possible is the best chance to prevent infection, decrease oral health risks, and reduce the need for extensive dental treatment.

a young girl holds her mouth in pain because she has broken a tooth

What To Do with a Knocked-out Tooth

Like a broken tooth, a dentist can often save a knocked-out tooth. Call your dentist immediately for emergency dental care if your child loses a permanent tooth. Typically, a tooth placed back within 10 minutes can take root again. However, after 2 hours, the chances of success decrease significantly. 

If you find the tooth, gently rinse it in clean water. Do not use soap or mouthwash. For older children, you may try carefully placing the tooth back in the socket. Then, hold it with clean gauze or cloth. 

If the tooth isn’t placed easily, don’t force it. Instead, place the tooth in a container of milk or saliva. For younger children, there’s a greater risk of swallowing the loose tooth, so immediately putting the tooth in a container is best.

Knocked-out baby teeth cannot be replanted. So do not try to put a baby tooth back in its socket. Instead, contact your dentist so they can assess the health of the gums. If there is bleeding, gently rinse your child’s mouth with clean water and place gauze in the socket.

Preventing Tooth Injuries

Accidents can happen, especially with active kids. But you and your child can take steps to avoid injuring their teeth and gums. Protect their teeth by avoiding:

  • Biting ice: The combined cold temperature and hard texture can crack or break teeth. It can also risk damaging dental work, like fillings or crowns.
  • Eating hard foods: Crunchy or hard foods like popcorn, candy, and shelled nuts should be eaten slowly. 
  • Using teeth as tools: Teeth are meant to cut and grind food, not cut tape and open packages! Instead, use appropriate tools, like scissors to cut material or a cloth to get a grip.
  • Sports without a mouthguard: Mouthguards protect teeth by absorbing shock. If your kids love sports, talk to your dentist about finding the right fit for your child’s mouthguard.

Contact Us for Emergency Care

Contacting your dentist as soon as possible can save your child’s tooth. At Maplebrook Dental, we can provide timely support to help protect your child’s dental health. Please give us a call if you or your child experience a dental issue or emergency. We can advise you about what to do at home and how to prepare for the appointment.

Our team at Maplebrook Dental cares about your oral health. So if you have dental concerns or it’s time for your regular appointment, we can offer quality care for your family. Book an appointment with us today!

Written by Fotini Molnar

Dr. Fotini Molnar started her dental experience working as a dental assistant in a co-op program during high school. She went on to complete her Bachelor of Science, majoring in biotechnology at York University and then obtained her Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree from the University of Toronto. Prior to her career in dentistry, Dr. Molnar researched neuroblastoma at Sick Kids Hospital.
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