How to handle childhood tooth trauma

Just about the time a youngster's first teeth start coming in, they are also learning to walk. That can set them up for dental injuries, that only increase as they grow older and become more active.

It has been four years since an accident on the daycare playground knocked out Annalise Funk's front tooth.  "She was sliding down the slide," said her mother, SuAnna Funk, "and her hands slipped and she fell into the bar face-first and knocked her front tooth out completely, root and all."

Pediatric dentist, Dr. Eric Sanders, says baby teeth are frequently knocked out by falls, sports and rough play.  "Children will fall during that time period and when they fall, most of the time it's to the face and they are trying to protect their face with their hands, but that doesn't usually work out," said Dr. Sanders.

That happened to five-year-old John Will Melton while playing around with his buddy.  "He made me laugh and then he made me fall off the couch and hit my tooth," said John Will.

John Will's tooth didn't get knocked out, but it was shifted to a point that eventually caused discoloration.  "Even a small fall, like a little bump to the tooth, can discolor a tooth and turn a tooth dark," said Dr. Sanders.

Usually, there is no long term damage associated with the darker color.  If a tooth is totally knocked out, the game changes.  "You don't put baby teeth back in," said Dr. Sanders, "permanent teeth you do, baby teeth you don't."

The treatment plan will take a more serious turn if a permanent tooth is knocked out. In that case, the best thing to immediately do is submerge the tooth in a glass of milk to preserve it until you can get to the dentist.  "If you get to the dentist within two hours, put the tooth back in and have it splinted, the chances of that tooth surviving greatly increases," said Dr. Sanders.

Since Annalise's knocked out tooth was a baby tooth, she was given a pedi-partial denture to complete her smile.  "We weren't able to get it until she was about two," said Funk, "because she had to wait until the two year old molars come in."

The immediate care Annalise and John Will had for their tooth injuries helped create a healthy place for the permanent teeth to grow and they are all smiles about that today.

When a tooth injury occurs, a neurological assessment also needs to be done to make sure there was no loss of consciousness and there is no nausea, vomiting or excessive bleeding.

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