Life happens. As much as we all would like to protect our kids from injury, odds are at some point they are going to get hurt. Obviously, one of the more common injuries we see here at Pediatric Smiles is a chipped tooth. The reasons they occur are about as wide in variety as there are different kinds of children in the world. Things like sports, accidental falls, deciding for some reason to bite down hard on the corner of the entertainment center (true story)…the list could go on and on.
It doesn’t really matter how it happened. The most important thing is how you handle the situation so that it doesn’t become a bigger issue than it needs to be. Sometimes, a chipped tooth may not seem like that big of a deal on the surface, but if it’s not taken care of, or at the very least examined, they can often lead to bigger issues.
The Hidden Dangers of a Chipped Tooth
What has happened when your child chips a tooth is that they have essentially subjected the tooth to a series of lots of simultaneous tiny cracks. Sometimes, a lot of these tiny cracks can’t even really be seen with the naked eye, but trust us…they are there. You know what else can’t be seen by the naked eye? Bacteria.
Cracks in a tooth are essentially highway lanes for all kinds of bacteria that lead right to the tooth’s core. This can cause all kinds of infections that may lead to the tooth eventually having to be pulled. If not taken care of, these infections can lead right into the gum line.
What Should Parents Do?
The last thing you want to see is your child suffer a painful infection and a series of uncomfortable dental procedures because you didn’t have a plan for when they chipped a tooth. So here is a list of things that our dental staff recommends parents can do so the situation can be handled properly.
- Call your child’s dentist: Don’t panic. Your child might be scared enough already so the last thing they need is to see you panic. Call the dentist’s office, explain the situation and they will tell you exactly what to do. Most likely, they will want you to come in right away to deal with the problem so they can examine the injury and determine the best treatment path.
- If you have the fragment, save it: One of the first things your dentist will ask is if you have the chipped fragment. Believe it or not, if it is intact, a good pediatric dentist can reattach tooth fragments. The best thing you can do is drop the fragment into a cup of milk. Teeth love calcium and milk is the ideal preservation method for a chipped tooth fragment.
- Check for and try to stop active bleeding: Even if the dentist’s office tells you to come in right away, it’s always a good idea to try to get any active bleeding under control. Take some clean gauze, fold it up, place it on the bleeding area and have your child bite down to keep it in place. Check every few minutes to see if the bleeding has stopped.
How Do Dentists Treat a Chipped Tooth?
The truth is that every patient is different and not every chipped tooth is the same. Your dentist will consult with you about the best treatment option after they examine the injury thoroughly. Usually, treatment paths come down to one of four options:
- Dental Bonding: The dentist will smooth out any rough or jagged edges on the tooth and then fill in the chipped area with a resin that then bonds with the surface of the tooth.
- Root Canals: If the tooth is cracked deep and infection is starting to set in, a root canal procedure may be necessary. Essentially the infected inner part of the tooth is removed, leaving only the outer shell. The tooth is then filled and sealed so infection can’t spread.
- Crowns: Sometimes after a root canal, the dentist might advise that crown be placed over the out shell of the infected tooth to help protect it. The material the crown is made from can vary but often they are made of gold, zirconium or porcelain
- Implants: Sometimes, a tooth can break all the way down into the gyms and into the jawline. The truth is, not every tooth can be saved. When that happens, often the tooth is removed and replaced with a dental implant.
Now you have a plan of action. Again, if you are ever in doubt of what to do when your child chips or cracks a tooth, the first thing you should do is call your dentist. Happy parenting!