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How should I care for a tooth injury?

Immediate treatment of tooth injuries is the same as with all traumatic injuries. Assess the severity of the injury and stability of the patient.  Is the patient responsive?  Do you need to call 911? Go thru your ABC's...airway, breathing, and circulation.  Do you need to start CPR?  Is there a chance the spinal cord has been compromised?  If so, immobilize the patient.  
Once you have established that the patient is stable, assess the soft tissues of the face and oral cavity and the teeth.
  • Control bleeding of soft tissue by applying direct pressure to the affected area.
  • Use ice on soft tissue to prevent swelling. 
  • If a tooth is knocked out, save it in a container with milk, not touching the root, and do not try to clean it.  By doing so you will remove important fibers that once connected it to the bone.  It may be possible to reimplant the tooth.  Time is of the essence, so see a dentist immediately.
  • Injured teeth may be intact and in place, but they may be mobile or loose. These teeth may require no treatment, or they may need to be splinted together until they tighten and heal on their own.
  • Many injuries to teeth involve the fracture of the enamel crown of the tooth.  In these cases, teeth may be repaired with a filling or crown.  If the inner nerve is involved in the fractured area, a root canal may be required.
  • The tooth in the photo has a fractured root.  In this case the tooth is unrestorable and would require extraction or removal of the tooth.  
  • A dentist should be consulted in any case of traumatic injury to the face and teeth for examination, x-rays and a plan of treatment, or at the very least, observation of the affected area.
  • Baby tooth injuries:  Toddlers are notorious for falling and injuring their mouths when learning to walk. Most of the time these injuries are limited to soft tissue or the teeth may be loosened and turn dark. There is little cause for alarm; however, consult your dentist to assure all is well.
If a person’s tooth is knocked out, control the bleeding and save the tooth so it may possibly be reinserted. Generally, the sooner the tooth is replaced, the better the chance is that it will survive.
  • If the person is conscious and able to cooperate, rinse out the mouth with cold tap water, if available.
  • You can control the bleeding by placing a rolled sterile dressing into the space left by the missing tooth.
  • Have the person gently bite down to maintain pressure.
  • To save the tooth, place it in milk, if possible, or cool water if milk is not available.
  • Be careful to pick up the tooth only by the crown (white part) rather than by the root.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.