Dental trauma is a problem that occurs mostly to young people who are prone to roughhousing, but it can happen to adults, too. Just one quick move on the basketball court, a baseball headed at your face, or a spill from your bike can lead to dental trauma. Sometimes dental trauma isn’t so obvious–you might just chip a tooth or loosen one for a while and think that’s it. However, even if your tooth remains intact, sometimes there is damage beneath the gum line that can still lead to tooth loss later on. Our teeth are made of enamel on the outside, but inside the tooth is a layer of dentin, a bone-like porous substance. The dentin is nourished by the innermost layer, the “pulp”, or a network of nerves, connective tissue and blood vessels. Our teeth are held into place by prong-like roots and fibrous tissue called the periodontal ligaments. Despite the annoyance of a damaged or knocked out tooth and the complexity of the human dental system, there are steps you can take to remedy a chipped, loose or knocked out tooth.
What to Do When a Tooth Gets Chipped
If your tooth gets chipped, it’s best if you can find the chipped piece (if it’s large enough to locate). Don’t worry if you can’t find it though; dentists can fix the tooth with a white resin. If your tooth sustained a small amount of chipping damage, that can usually be fixed with one trip to the dentist. However, if you lost a bigger chunk of the tooth, you might need a crown that fits over the remainder of the tooth. This process will take at least two visits, since the dentist will need to make a mold of your tooth for proper fit. If any part of the dentin or pulp of the tooth was exposed in a chip, you will likely need to wait to see if the tooth is viable. Bacteria can infect the pulp, or the trauma itself can cause permanent damage. It’s a bad sign if the tooth begins to change color, starts hurting or becomes sensitive to extreme temperatures (cold or hot). Your dentist can perform a root canal or inject the chipped tooth with a plastic filling substance.
What to Do When a Tooth Gets Knocked Loose
If your tooth gets knocked out of position, sometimes you can merely push the tooth back into place. However, you should always see your dentist so he/she can do this for you. Sometimes pushing the tooth back into place will save the ligaments, but you may still need a root canal if the pulp is damaged. Regardless, preserving the ligament tissue will at least better ensure that the tooth will reattach to your jawbone. If your tooth has been badly knocked out of position, your dentist may put on a “dental splint” to hold it into place until it reattaches to the jawbone.
What to Do When a Tooth Gets Knocked Out
It’s unfortunate when a permanent tooth accidentally gets knocked out. This doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically lose the tooth; there are ways to prevent the tooth from dying while it’s out of your mouth. If a permanent tooth gets knocked out, what is most important is making sure to see your dentist as soon as possible. Do not head to the emergency room, as they do not know what to do. Also, make sure not to clean the tooth too vigorously, as this could damage important ligaments that my still be attached to the tooth. Instead, it’s best to keep the tooth moist with saliva or in milk until you can get to the dentist, although this should be done as soon as possible.
recently named in the 2009 edition of Best Lawyer's In America, David Mittleman has been representing seriously injured people since 1985. A partner with Church Wyble PC—a division of Grewal Law PLLC—Mr. Mittleman and his partners focus on medical malpractice, wrongful death, car accidents, slip and falls, nursing home injury, pharmacy/pharmacist negligence and disability claims.