A Kitchener Dentist's Tips for Managing Dental Trauma

Dr. Kyle Hornby

At our Kitchener Dental Office, we see dental trauma emergencies commonly. In fact, roughly one-third of toddlers and children and one-fifth of adolescents and adults experience a dental trauma event. The high incidence of these events suggests that a basic understanding of managing dental trauma would be helpful to patients.

So, what do I mean by dental trauma? Well, traumas occur when an adult, adolescent or child sustains impact to the mouth. For instance, a child will fall and hit their mouth on a coffee table or an adult may have a ball hit them in the mouth during a softball game. These are trauma accidents.

Any time you sustain moderate to severe impact to your mouth or teeth, you have a trauma accident. Sometimes, damage is minimal and heals on its own quickly. Other times, the impact level is high and damage to oral structures occur.

People will typically have the same basic questions when they (or their child) experience a dental trauma accident: "What can I do right now?", "Who should we see?" and "How bad is this?". In this article, I'd like to provide some basic information about dental trauma accidents. I'd also like to share some valuable tips for increasing the likelihood of a good healing outcome.

Is Dental Trauma the same as a Dental Emergency?

A dental trauma is a specific type of dental emergency. Dental emergency is a broader term that includes trauma injuries to teeth and gums as well as non-trauma injuries to the teeth, gums and jaw.

Generally, a dental trauma involves impact to the mouth that may:

  • Break, chip or fracture teeth
  • Loosen teeth
  • Damage the lips, cheeks and/or gums
  • Damage the jaws
  • Cause other non-dental injuries to areas around the face
  • Result in a concussion

The fact that other non-dental injuries may accompany a dental trauma injury suggests the need for multiple forms of care. For instance, if significant bleeding or concussion occurs, treatment of these injuries should take priority.

Once higher priority injuries receive attention, you can then move on to assessment of dental injuries by your Kitchener Dentist. So, what are the types of dental injuries that occur in a trauma accident and how do we manage them together?

Broken Teeth or Dental Fillings

If the impact to the mouth or teeth is high enough, teeth or dental fillings can break. Your Dentist in Kitchener will manage breaks and fractures according to the depth of the fracture or size of piece lost during impact.

How Broken Teeth Are Fixed

As I mentioned above, solutions for broken teeth vary depending on where the break ends and how much tooth is lost. For instance, your Family Dentist can often smooth off small chips or repair them with a small piece of dental or composite bonding.

In contrast, larger breaks may require repair with a dental crown. Crowns reinforce fragile teeth to prevent future fractures. If a larger fracture exposes the tooth's nerve or dental pulp, you may need a root canal treatment before repair.

If your trauma accident has left you with one or more broken teeth, call your Kitchener Dental Office for guidance and treatment. If the broken tooth is sensitive, you can lessen sensitivity using clove oil (unless you have an allergy to Cloves, of course). You'll also want to avoid triggers like cold or sweet foods and beverages.

Loosened Teeth

Sometimes the impact of trauma can loosen your teeth. If this happens, your bite might feel unusual as some of your teeth will be in a slightly different position. You can bite slowly together and then try to gently push your tooth back into its socket. For re-positioning an upper front tooth, you would bite slowly together into your most normal feeling bite. Next push gently upward to re-seat the tooth in its socket. For a lower tooth, you would gently apply downward pressure to re-seat the tooth in its socket.

Call your Kitchener Dentist Office right away and let them know you've had a dental trauma injury and teeth are loose. This way, they'll be able to arrange immediate emergency dental care. The more quickly you can get loose teeth in their proper position, the better the outcome.

Note: For children, if a baby tooth is loose your Dentist will assess the severity and decide whether or not to reposition the tooth versus recommending dental extraction.

Can Loose Teeth Heal?

Loose teeth can heal. If the Dentist can re-establish proper tooth position, your gums and socket bone will re-model to tighten up around your tooth. Your Dentist may also choose to bond or cement a splint to connect any loose teeth to more stable neighbour teeth. This helps to support the loose teeth so that they can heal.

In some cases, an impact injury can lead to necrosis or death of your tooth. When this happens, a dental abscess or swelling of surrounding gums may follow. If this happens, your Kitchener-Waterloo Dentist will advise you of the need for root canal treatment.

In cases where swelling, infection and/or looseness do not respond to treatment, tooth extraction may be necessary. You then have the option to replace the tooth with a dental bridge or dental implant.

Damage To Soft Tissues of the Mouth

Patients may sustain injuries to their lips, cheeks or gums resulting from a dental trauma injury. Often times, if these injuries are minor, they will heal on their own. Occasionally, more severe injuries may require stitches, sutures or cauterization to resolve bleeding. Another complication involves contamination of the wound with dirt, stones and other debris. In these cases, your ER Doctor or Family Dentist will clean and debride the area to minimize infection risk and enable healing.

Over-the-counter antibiotic ointments can help to decrease infection risk during healing of soft tissue injuries.

Damage to Your Jaw

Trauma injuries to the jaw tend to be far more common in adults compared to children. A trauma to the jaw may occur during sports competition or during combat activities such as Karate. Rarely, a fracture of the jaw can occur. These will often require medical intervention to stabilize the jaw and enable bone healing.

More commonly, a trauma injury can cause jaw dislocation. Patients will notice this in some cases because their bite feels different. Dislocation can be minor or major. Healing will often involve weeks or months of a soft diet as the temperomandibular joint (TMJ) heals. Long-term, patients may notice a soft "popping" or "clicking" sound when eating or on opening and closing.

Oftentimes, physiotherapy, massage therapy and functional exercises can improve function and minimize symptoms.

Thanks for reading today!

By Dr. Kyle Hornby, Dentist in Kitchener

Our Kitchener Dental Office is conveniently located in Downtown Kitchener and we are a short drive away for families in Waterloo, Breslau & St. Jacobs. Our central location means we truly offer family dentistry near you!

This article is meant to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Accordingly, always seek the advice of your Dentist or other healthcare providers regarding a dental condition or treatment.

Enjoy a fresh start.
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