Traumatic Dental Injuries

Two men playing one-on-one basketball on an outdoor court.

Dental Injuries, Accidents & Emergencies


Traumatic dental injuries can occur in people of all ages and activity levels. The cause might be a car accident, a fall down the stairs, or an elbow to the face during a basketball game. As with most types of dental treatments, the primary goal when treating a traumatic dental injury is to save the tooth (or teeth) that is at risk of being lost and restore it to full function and normal appearance. Oftentimes the difference between saving and losing a tooth depends on taking the proper action in the immediate aftermath of an injury. Luckily, your Palm Harbor orthodontist Dr. Johnson has compiled a list of common scenarios where dental injuries can occur as well as what to do immediately following the accident.

Sports-Related Tooth Damage


Sports are a fun pastime and have even risen to so much popularity, that professional careers have been made through them. From the Olympics to professional leagues, many enjoy both playing and watching sports—especially Americans! According to a recent survey, the participation of students in high school sports has been increasing for 24 consecutive years. In order to gain the benefits that sports offer, however, it's necessary to accept and prepare for the risk of injury.

Dental trauma accounts for a significant portion of all sports injuries yet so many of these injuries are preventable. With the simple use of a high-quality mouthguard, you can save yourself from serious oral damage. It is estimated that mouthguards prevent more than 200,000 injuries each year so, when you consider that the lifetime cost of replacing a permanent tooth has been estimated to exceed $20,000, a good mouthguard is one of the best investments you can make in sports equipment. The best kind of mouthguard is one that comes from your dentist's office. It's custom-made from a model of your own teeth that is strong, lightweight, and perfectly fitted. If you or your child are active in sports, ask about this indispensable piece of safety gear.

Chipped or Broken Teeth

Chipped tooth.

According to the American Association of Endodontists, chipped teeth are the most common form of dental injury. This is something that can occur when blunt force trauma is concentrated in your oral region and can result from anything such as an accident at a martial arts class to falling down and coming face-first into a hard object. If your teeth have been chipped or fractured or if they are loose/tender to the touch, this is considered an orthodontic emergency so make sure to see a dentist within 12 hours (or the emergency room if you can’t get a hold of your orthodontist). Remember. Your tooth is a living organism made up of live tissue, nerves, and dentin. Because of this, try to locate any pieces of the tooth that have come off as it may be possible to reattach them to the crown with tooth-colored bonding material.

Knocked-Out Teeth

A diagram showing how to replant a tooth should it get pulled out by accident

If a permanent tooth has been knocked out of its socket (avulsed), immediate attention is required. Read the following instructions on what you should do in this situation:

- Recover the tooth: Try and find the tooth that was knocked out of its socket and gently clean it off with water (if you have latex gloves in your emergency first aid kit, put them on). Try not to touch the root portion of the tooth as, again, this is a living tissue. You don’t want to compromise this section and cause damage or infection.

- Place the tooth back into its socket: Making sure it is in the proper orientation, apply a gentle, sustained pressure to the tooth and slide it back into the socket, holding it in place for five minutes. You can use a wad of wet tissue or gauze to help grasp and hold the tooth in place.

- Visit a doctor or your orthodontist straight away: If possible, get emergency dental treatment as soon as possible after the process listed above. Alternatively, visit the emergency room for assistance and make sure to ask whether a tetanus shot or booster is needed.

If it isn't possible to replant the tooth, place the tooth in between your teeth and cheek, place it into a plastic bag with your saliva, or into a cup of cold milk. Control the bleeding from the tooth socket by applying pressure to the area (use gauze if possible) and get the patient and the tooth to an emergency treatment center as soon as possible. Primary baby teeth don't usually need to be replanted.

Partially Displaced Teeth


This occurrence is the exact opposite of an avulsion. In these instances, instead of the tooth being knocked out, it is actually pushed in further than normal or moved sideways causing them to be misaligned. If teeth are driven into or pushed partially out of the jaw or if they are out of alignment, then you need to see a dentist or oral surgeon within 6 hours of the accident. Although the tooth (or teeth) hasn’t been knocked out, we request that you do not dismiss this accident as non-urgent. You could still suffer permanent damage to your nerves, risk infection to your surrounding oral tissue, experience total loss of your tooth, and other threats to your oral health. The proper measures should still be taken so that you can prevent further damage or additional restorative treatments down the road. A careful examination of the mouth (plus x-rays if needed) should reveal the extent of the damage and indicate what restorative treatments are likely to be required.

Soft-Tissue Injuries


In addition to trauma to your teeth, dental injuries often involve damage to the gums, the tongue, the jaw, and the inside of the mouth. When these soft-tissue injuries occur, it's best to take the following immediate actions and then see a dentist as soon as possible:

- Clean the affected area: Wash and rinse the area with soap and water if possible or remove debris and foreign material by hand.

- Stop the oral bleeding: Bleeding can usually be controlled by applying direct, gentle pressure to gauze pads placed on the wound.

- Seek professional help: If it can't be controlled after about 10 minutes, go to an emergency room. If you have controlled the bleeding, schedule an emergency appointment with Dr. Johnson immediately.

Contact You Palm Harbor Emergency Dentist Today!


If you or your child are in need of emergency dental surgery in Palm Harbor or require additional information about handling a traumatic dental injury, don't hesitate to call the dental office at 727-786-7550. Our knowledgeable staff is trained for these sorts of emergencies and will calmly walk you through the steps of what you should do in certain situations. If you’ve suffered from a previous accident and didn’t take the proper measures and care at the time of the trauma and would like to correct your alignment with traditional braces or Invisalign or are interested in restoring the shape of your jaw with a palatal expander, schedule a consultation with us online. We hope to hear from you soon!

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