When children are active, parents always dread the accidents that seem inevitable. When they do happen, knowing how to handle it can mean the difference between saving or losing your child’s tooth. Parents should always be prepared for any kind of emergency that can happen whether through a sports activity or simply by your child being their usual active self.
In order to be prepared, the WDA offers the following tips for how to handle some common dental emergencies:
- Knocked-out tooth – It is important to retrieve a knocked out tooth, hold it by its crown, and rinse off the root of the tooth if it’s dirty. Do not touch the root; the root is usually darker than the crown. Do not scrub it or remove any attached tissue fragments. If possible, put the tooth back in its socket. The mouth is usually numb after that kind of trauma, so it will not hurt to put the tooth back into the socket. It is the safest place to transport the tooth, even if the dentist has to remove it and replace it again. If that isn’t possible or the child is too young to keep it there, put the tooth in a container with cold milk or cold water (not contact lens saline solution as this is NOT a good transport medium) and contact your dentist immediately.
- Broken tooth – Rinse the child’s mouth with warm water to keep the area clean. Use cold compresses on the area to keep the swelling down and get the child to the dentist’s office quickly. Bring the tooth fragment with you.
- Bitten lip or tongue – Clean the area gently with a cloth and then apply cold compresses to reduce the swelling. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, take your child to a hospital emergency room immediately.
- Objects caught between the teeth – Try to gently remove the object with dental floss and avoid cutting the gums. Do not use a sharp instrument. If you are not successful in removing the object, take the child to the dentist.
It also is wise to know ahead of time what arrangements your child’s dentist has for handling emergencies that occur outside of office hours. Does the dentist have an answering service or paging service? Many dentists arrange for a colleague or a referral source to aid their patients when they themselves are unavailable.
Do you play football, basketball or mountain bike? How about skateboarding, soccer or volleyball? Maybe you do gymnastics or are part of a softball league. No matter what sport you’re involved in, there’s always a risk of injury.
A properly fitted mouthguard, or mouth protector, is an important piece of athletic gear. Many experts recommend that everyone – from children to adults – wear a mouthguard during any recreational activity that might pose a risk of injury to the mouth.
A mouth protector generally covers only the upper teeth. Some athletes, though, like those who wear braces or those with a protruding jaw may need a protector for the lower teeth, too.
A properly fitted mouth protector will stay in place while you are wearing it, making it easy for you to talk and breathe. There are three types of mouth protectors:
- boil and bite
Stock mouth protectors are inexpensive and come pre-formed, ready to wear. You can buy one at most sporting goods stores, pop it in your mouth and hit the field. Unfortunately, they don’t always fit very well. They can be bulky and can make breathing and talking to your teammates difficult.
Boil and bite mouth protectors also can be bought at most sporting goods stores and may offer a better fit than stock mouth protectors. They should be softened in water, then inserted and allowed to adapt to the shape of your mouth. To make sure you get a proper fit, you may want to ask your dentist to help you.
Your dentist makes custom-fitted mouth protectors. They cost more than the other versions, but because they are custom-made, they offer a better fit than anything you can buy off the shelf. Athletes who have braces, dental implants or fixed bridgework especially should consider custom-fitted mouth protectors.
Caring for mouthguards
- Rinse with cold water or with an antiseptic mouth rinse before and after each use.
Clean with a toothbrush and antibacterial hand soap after each use.
- When not being used, place the mouthguard in a firm, perforated container. This permits air circulation and helps prevent damage.
- Avoid high temperatures, such as hot water, hot surfaces or direct sunlight, which can distort the mouthguard.
- Check for tears, holes and a snug fit. Mouthguards that are torn or in bad shape can be uncomfortable and provide less protection.
- Get regular dental checkups and bring your mouthguard along, so the dentist can make sure it’s still in good condition.