Ah, childhood. It’s all fun and games–until someone loses a tooth.  Here in Olathe, kids find ways to be active indoors and out all year long.  Playing sports, skating parks, bounce house parties, climbing trees, jumping off swings, jumping on their sibling, and even playing games in PE at school are all opportunities for your kid to knock a tooth loose or even knock it out completely!  So, what should you do when disaster strikes?

First, check for more serious injuries.

Knocking a tooth loose (or out) usually requires a powerful blow to the head, and where head traumas are concerned, the tooth might be the least of your worries. Look out for these symptoms of severe head trauma:

  • bleeding from the nose or ears
  • memory loss
  • blackouts
  • dizziness
  • disorientation
  • misaligned jaws
  • drowsiness
  • severe head or earaches
  • nausea or vomiting
  • double or blurry vision

If you observe any of these red flags, call 911 or head straight for the emergency room. Severe head traumas tend to get worse before they get better because of brain swelling, so it’s best not to take any chances with them. You’ll also want to make sure that your child didn’t bite himself during the impact. Bites to the tongue, cheeks, or jaw can all require stitches if they’re bad enough. Typically, stitches are recommended if the wound is wide enough that you can’t pinch the edges together or if the bleeding doesn’t stop after you’ve applied pressure for ten minutes.

If you child doesn’t have any of the serious injuries listed above, you can switch your focus to the loose or missing tooth.

If the tooth has been hit hard, knocked loose, or knocked out…

 Call your dentist and have your child seen immediately.  Time is vital when it comes to a tooth that has been knocked loose or knocked completely out. Dr. Hahn and Dr. Driscoll want to see any patient that has had a blow to the mouth.  With quick emergency action, your child’s tooth will have a higher chance to successfully be saved or moved back into place.

If a baby tooth is knocked loose…

Don’t wait – have your child see their dentist.  An x-ray will show if there is damage to the tooth’s root and nerves or to the underlying permanent tooth.  If the tooth has been knocked crooked, the dentist may also need to realign it to prevent other teeth (especially permanent teeth) from growing in crooked as well. This can easily be done if you get your child to the dentist within the first hour of the accident. After a few hours, the bone will begin to harden again, and realigning the tooth will become more difficult.

If the tooth isn’t crooked and your dentist isn’t concerned by the injury, it’s best to keep your child on a diet of soft foods for a few days to give the tooth time to re-implant itself in the gums. Cold foods are also good for reducing inflammation. (Yes, we’re giving you permission to put your kid on an ice cream diet!)

If a baby tooth is knocked out…

In most cases, losing a baby tooth is no sweat.  Call your dentist to see what they suggest.  Most baby teeth fall out by the age of twelve anyway! Your child might have a gap-tooth smile for a bit longer than his peers, if the permanent tooth was not ready to grow in when the baby tooth was knocked out. But there should be no permanent damage.

If a permanent tooth is knocked loose…

When your child damages a permanent tooth, the consequences become much more serious. Call your dentist and have your child seen immediately.  If the tooth is extremely loose, crooked, or dangling from the socket this is an emergency and they need to be seen ASAP. If the tooth is still straight and only slightly loose, they still need to be seen by their dentist within an hour of the accident.  If your dentist prescribes a liquid or soft food diet be sure your child sticks with it. This will help the tooth heal and reattach properly.

If a permanent tooth is knocked out…

Your child needs to be rushed to the dentist. If possible, find the tooth that was knocked out.  Avoid damaging the sensitive nerve endings at the root area of the tooth when handling.  If the tooth needs to be rinsed, use saliva or milk.  Water will not help when preserving the tooth. If your child is old enough not to swallow the tooth, carefully reinsert it into the socket and use a paper compact to hold it there until you can get to the dentist. Otherwise, put the tooth in a cup with either milk or saliva. If you get to the dentist within thirty minutes of the accident, the chances are good that the original tooth can be re-implanted in your child’s mouth. But if you can’t get to the dentist within an hour of the accident, your child will probably have to have a dental implant to replace the original tooth. Dental implants are involved surgical procedures, so you want to avoid them if at all possible.

Be prepared.

Children lose teeth all the time, so it is good to be prepared.  Sometimes losing a tooth is just a visit from the tooth fairy. Sometimes it is a trip to the emergency room. As a parent, the best thing you can do in the event of a loose or missing tooth is to keep calm, rule out any serious injuries, and call your dentist immediately. Acting promptly, the dentist will have your child smiling again in no time.