Statistics show that one-third of all 5-year-olds have sustained injury to their primary teeth, and one-quarter of all 12-year-olds have sustained injury to their permanent teeth. Dental trauma can happen through sporting events, a fall, a car accident or other impacts.
Dentists and physicians classify dental injuries into four main categories:
1) fractures - either a part of the tooth comes off or a root is fractured
2) lateral or extrusive luxation - loosening or displacement of the tooth from its normal position
3) intrusion - displacement of the tooth into the alveolar bone
4) avulsion - complete loss of tooth from its socket
If any of these things happen, get to a dentist as soon as possible. Don't wait! The longer you wait to seek appropriate dental treatment, the greater the possibility that the tooth, gum tissue or alveolar bone will suffer permanent damage. If there is a chance of salvaging the tooth treatment needs to begin right away. Many dentists reserve spots in their schedule for walk-ins and emergencies.
Examination of Dental Trauma
On visiting a dentist, examination will surround:
- determining the extent of damage to the tooth, gum, and alveolar bone
- determining the extent of tooth mobility/loosening/displacement and alteration of bite (occlusion)
Expect at least one radiograph to be taken, likely a panorex (wide/all the way around the mouth). This radiograph will allow the dentist to see all mouth structures from one TMJ to the other. X-rays of individual teeth may also be warranted, such as bite-wings or periapical films, to evaluate the tissues and structures immediately affected by the traumatized tooth.
Treatment for Dental Trauma
X-rays will be taken to determine the extent of the damage to the tooth, particularly if the fracture is suspected to be or is confirmed to run below the gum line. If part of the tooth is broken off, the tooth fragment(s) should be kept hydrated in milk, as there is the possibility that the fragment can be reattached. If there is damage to the pulp chamber, a root canal may be necessary.