With the arrival of warmer weather, kids are heading outside to neighborhood parks, sports fields, or simply their backyards to play. With the increase of outdoor activities comes the risk of minor injuries. In fact, about 50 percent of kids will experience some type of tooth injury during childhood.
Just as kids prep for their spring sports season, it’s good for parents to know what to do in case of dental-related accident. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recently released a guide that takes you through step-by-step on how to handle the most common childhood tooth injuries. It can be posted it in a convenient place for yourself and caregivers.
To tell us more about the guide, we asked Edward Moody, DDS, a pediatric dentist in Morristown, Tennessee and AAPD president-elect more about dental injuries caused by sports and activities and what to do in an emergency.
What are some of the common causes for tooth injury?
Whether children are running around the local playground, bike riding in the neighborhood, or playing baseball with their spring team, there is a risk of dental injuries. Kids at play can be susceptible to falling, colliding with objects (or each other) or being hit accidentally by balls or other sports equipment.
Dental and facial injuries represent a high percentage of the total injuries experienced in youth sports. You might also be surprised to know a significant percentage of mouth injuries also occur in children two to three years of age, so be sure to child proof your house for youngsters.
What mistakes do caregivers sometimes make when a child loses a baby tooth or a permanent tooth?
The moments just after a tooth injury can be traumatic for both parents and kids and knowing what to do ahead of time will alleviate some stress. Here are a couple of common mistakes to be aware of:
- Spending time looking for a baby tooth. Instead, contact your pediatric dentist immediately. Remember, a baby tooth can’t be placed back in the mouth because it could damage permanent teeth.
- Scrubbing a permanent tooth with water or soap. Scrubbing the tooth or cleaning it with soap and water can cause further damage. Instead, place it in a glass of milk and seek immediate care from your child's dentist.
- Leaving the permanent tooth in a glass of water. Water can damage cells on the root of the tooth necessary for it to reattach. A clean container with cold milk is a much better option, or if milk is not available, place the tooth in a container with your child’s saliva.
Why is it important to contact your pediatric dentist after a child has a baby or permanent tooth knocked out?
Time is critical when trying to save a permanent tooth and reduce the need for extensive dental treatment. Contacting your pediatric dentist immediately is important as he can give you further guidance and advice to follow until you arrive at the office. Also, some dental injuries are not readily apparent, so whenever there is an accident involving dental or facial trauma, it's always best to have it evaluated. If your child does not already have a pediatric dentist, it’s a good time to schedule their first visit! The AAPD has a pediatric dentist finder so you can locate one nearby on mychildrensteeth.org.
How can my dentist help a child that has a chipped or broken tooth?
If your child chips a tooth, take the fragment with you to the pediatric dentist if you’re able to find it. Even if the dentist is unable to repair the tooth with the missing piece, he or she will still be able to treat your child and in most cases will still be able to repair the tooth. Prompt treatment may reduce the chances of infection or the need for further extensive treatment.
What type of activities do you recommend a mouthguard? Is there a type that you recommend?
The activities where a mouthguard is a must include football, lacrosse and hockey. Mouthguards are also strongly encouraged in baseball, basketball, soccer, wrestling and gymnastics. Parents should also consider them for leisure activities like biking, roller blading and skateboarding - especially for beginners!
Soft plastic mouthguards will protect not only a child's teeth, but also lips, cheeks and gums, and may reduce the force that can cause concussions, neck injuries and jaw fractures. Most mouthguards are made to fit comfortably to the shape of the upper teeth. Pre-formed or boil-to-fit mouthguards can be purchased in sporting goods stores. Different types and brands vary in terms of comfort, protection and cost. Your pediatric dentist can also make customized mouthguards that tend to be more comfortable and effective at preventing injuries.