Parents go to great lengths to ensure their children have healthy smiles. We go to regular dental checkups, orthodontic consultations, and ensuring they eat healthy food and use properly fitting personal protective gear such as mouth guards. Despite these extremes, healthy, active children can sustain tooth injuries that require immediate dental attention. While the thought of a child breaking or chipping a tooth seems like a horrible occurrence, there’s no need to panic if this unfortunate situation happens to you. Here’s our brief guide to “What to Do When a Child Breaks a Tooth.”

Broken Baby Teeth vs. Adult Teeth

Children usually have 20 baby teeth that are typically smooth on the bottom and are whiter than permanent (adult) teeth. While broken baby teeth may seem less prominent, they serve as crucial placeholders for future adult teeth. Whether your child has sustained an injury to a baby tooth or an adult tooth make sure you have them evaluated by a dentist as soon as you can.

What to Do When a Tooth Breaks

Stay Calm

When your child breaks a tooth the first thing to do is take a deep breath and remain calm. Even though it is more traumatic for a child to break a tooth, parents tend to freak out at the prospect of a broken tooth. Having a cool head will help deescalate the situation and encourage your child to remain calm.

Save the Fragment

If a piece of your child’s tooth breaks off, try and find the missing piece and keep it. Sometimes, the chipped tooth fragment can be bonded back onto the remaining tooth structure. If available, the tooth fragment can be preserved in a wet cloth or gauze.

Oral Rinse

When dealing with a chipped or broken tooth, give your child warm water to rinse out their mouth so that the damaged area stays clean.

Cold Compress

In certain situations, sustaining a chipped tooth may cause your child’s face to swell. Offer them a cold compress to hold in place for no more than 15 minutes at a time so that they can reduce any swelling present. Make sure not to place the cold compress directly onto the skin to avoid nerve damage.

Pain Management

Children’s Tylenol, acetaminophen, or other appropriate over-the-counter pain medication can be given as directed to deal with pain arising from the injury.

Contact Your Dentist

Timing is of the essence with chipped, cracked, or missing teeth. Contact your dentist office immediately and explain the situation to them. The dentist will work to get your child seen as soon as possible to increase the chances of saving a tooth that has broken.

Treatment and Care of a Broken Tooth

Getting to the dentist after a child breaks a tooth is vital as they will evaluate the full extent of the injury and detect less obvious damage. When you visit the dentist after a tooth break, how they treat your child’s tooth will depend on the extent of the accident. If the tooth is just chipped, your dentist may repair the damaged tooth using fillings and polishing to smooth the edges. If the tooth is cracked, but no nerves are damaged, a crown or filler may be used to repair the broken tooth. For injuries to a tooth with nerve damage, a root canal may be necessary before applying a cap or crown.

Care for a broken tooth also depends on the extent of the injury. If a tooth is chipped, fractured, and broken on the outer layer of enamel only, then fillings or bonding may be all that is needed. If the injury exposes the yellow colored dentin or red/pink colored tooth pulp, pain management and antibiotics to avoid infection might be required. For a severely damaged tooth, you may need return visits to the dentist.

Contact a Knoxville Dentist

Becoming an established patient, or a “patient of record” with a dentist offers the critical benefit of being able to contact the dentist directly without having to go through the standard appointment path. Dentists in Knoxville often have an emergency number that will allow you to contact them after hours or during weekends or holidays. Additionally, having regular dental checkups for your child ensures that your dentist is familiar with their dental records and any other medical conditions. Make a dental appointment today in one of our two convenient dentist offices in Knoxville by calling our UT Medical Center Office at (865) 305-9440 or our West Knoxville Office at (865) 500-5700.