How do most dental injuries happen in children?
Dental injuries are quite common. Up to 30% of children injure their baby teeth. Injuries to these primary teeth typically occur during the toddler years when children are on the move but still learning to walk and run. Falls represent the most common cause of dental trauma in children under five years old. Patients under five with these injuries usually say they fell from furniture, on the floor, on stairs, or in bathtubs and showers.
After this stage passes, the frequency of dental trauma diminishes somewhat but becomes common again during the mid-elementary school years in children around eight to 10 years old. Many children first begin joining sports teams and engage in more independent outdoor activities, such as riding bikes and scooters, jumping on trampolines, playing at a pool, and using playground equipment.
What dental injuries do you see most often?
Parents bring their children in for treatment for numerous types of dental injuries. The most common include tooth fractures, displacement of teeth, intrusions — where teeth are pushed up into the socket, extrusions — where teeth are pushed out of the socket, and avulsions, meaning the tooth is completely knocked out of the socket.
We also see a lot of kids of with trauma to soft tissue like the tongue and lips and gingival (gum) lacerations. For example, a lip injury may occur due to a tooth fragment becoming embedded in it. Our injured young patients also frequently arrive with jaw fractures and fractures to the bone surrounding the teeth.
What can parents do right after a child suffers dental trauma?
It’s crucial that the parent brings the child to a pediatric dentist as soon as possible for evaluation and radiographs. At Pediatric Dental Safari, we have a 24-hour call service for convenience and if the injury occurs after hours. Our doctors and dental assistants will assess the urgency level the injury requires and schedule an appointment accordingly.
If the child knocks a permanent tooth completely out, reimplantation should occur within one hour. If possible, place the tooth back into its socket. Make sure only to touch the crown — the visible part of the tooth — and not the root. If you’re unable to reimplant it due to pain or blockage, store the tooth in milk and bring it and your child to the dental office as soon as possible.
With any dental trauma, proper diagnosis, treatment planning, and follow-up are important for achieving a favorable outcome.
What are some complications that can occur due to dental trauma?
If prompt treatment, aftercare, and favorable healing doesn’t take place, complications can arise soon afterward, but sometimes later, appearing months or years after the injury. Some possible complications include:
- Tooth discoloration
- Nerve damage
- Abscess and infection
- Premature loss of baby teeth
- Loss of permanent teeth
- Psychological effects, such as appearance concerns, fear of another injury
- Ankylosis, which occurs when the tooth becomes fused to surrounding bone and slowly sinks into the gum tissue
- Damage to developing teeth. There’s a close spatial relationship between the roots of baby teeth and the developing underlying permanent teeth. If the dental trauma causes injury to the baby teeth and the alveolar bone, this can result in tooth malformation, impacted teeth, and eruption disturbances in the developing permanent teeth.
- Financial stress due to additional future dental treatments
What can parents do to help oral-facial trauma affecting the teeth?
Kids are going to engage in physical activity, and they will fall. Sometimes, dental trauma will result and is unavoidable. But following these recommended precautions may reduce the severity of dental injuries from falls.
- Always insist that kids wear helmets, protective facemasks, and mouthguards appropriate to the specific activity.
- Insist that kids walk and not run around pool areas.
- For toddlers, childproofing the house in anticipation of developmental milestones can reduce chances of dental trauma from falls.
- Instruct children to take care when wearing non-gripping socks on hardwood and tile floor surfaces as these can cause slipping and possible injury.
- Do not allow infants to run with a bottle, sippy cup, pacifier, or another object in the mouth.
- Children with protruding front teeth have a significantly higher frequency of suffering dental trauma. Initiating preventive orthodontic treatment in the early to middle stages of losing baby teeth with permanent teeth emerging can reduce the severity of injuries to permanent incisors.
It’s essential to find a dental home for your child at an early age, ideally by the first birthday. This ensures your child is comfortable with the dentist and will make things less stressful during an emergency visit.
Amita Damani, DDS
Dr. Damani is a board-certified pediatric dental specialist. She received her Doctor of Dental Surgery from New York University College of Dentistry in 2007 and completed her residency at Columbia University. During her pediatric dentistry specialty training at Interfaith Medical Center, she was honored to act as chief resident. She then moved back to her home state of Texas to live her dream of providing dental care to children.
Priya Rao, DMD
Dr. Rao earned her Doctor of Dental Medicine degree, with honors, from the Advanced Standing Program of Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine in 2004. After practicing family dentistry for two years in Ohio, she relocated to Houston and has practiced pediatric dentistry ever since because she has a passion for working with kids of all ages.
Anjum Kherani, DMD
Dr. Kherani is a board-certified pediatric dental specialist. She pursued her Doctorate in Dental Medicine at Temple University, Kornberg School of Dentistry in Pennsylvania, graduating magna cum laude. She then completed a two-year pediatric residency at St. Christopher’s Hospital in Philadelphia, where she received intensive training in treating children with a wide range of medical and dental needs.
947 Gessner Road, Suite A240
Houston, Texas 77024
2840 Commercial Center Boulevard
Katy, Texas 77494