There are two kinds of dental emergencies — the kind that’s somewhat expected and the kind that isn’t expected at all. A long-standing infection that flares into a severe toothache may be predictable, for example, but an accidental injury that causes tooth trauma is usually a surprise.
Emergency dentistry specialist Marvin Taylor, DDS, and the team at Dr. Taylor’s Family Dental Center know that just as tooth trauma is rarely anticipated, it almost always requires prompt attention and professional care.
Here’s what you need to know about the most common types of tooth trauma, and how getting immediate, expert care can help safeguard your long-term oral health.
What causes tooth trauma?
Your teeth may be relatively protected inside your mouth, but they’re still susceptible to injury. Tooth trauma, or acute damage that weakens or undermines any part of a tooth, can occur in a variety of situations, ranging from slip-and-fall mishaps and sports injuries to car accidents.
Tooth trauma can also be caused by biting down on hard foods, grinding your teeth when you sleep (bruxism), or using your teeth as tools (to open a package or hold something heavy when your hands are occupied).
When tooth trauma occurs in the absence of a serious or life-threatening bodily injury, saving the injured tooth should be your first priority. The best way to do that? Seek professional care as soon as possible.
Common tooth injuries
In fact, a recent report on the incidence and outcomes of dental injuries found that each year in the United States, tooth trauma affects about one in three toddlers and children, and about one in five adolescents and adults.
Common forms of tooth trauma include:
Broken or chipped teeth
When part of your tooth breaks off — whether it’s a small chip or a larger piece — you may find it harder to speak clearly and chew easily. The rough or irregular surface of your impaired tooth may also cause pain or discomfort when it rubs against your cheek or gum.
Any time you chip or break a tooth, it’s important to locate the missing fragment. Depending on the nature and severity of the break as well as the condition of your teeth, Dr. Taylor may be able to reattach the fragment and restore your tooth.
If you don’t have the missing tooth fragment, Dr. Taylor may need to address the problem with bonding, a simple cosmetic repair that uses composite bonding material to restore shape and function to the affected tooth.
If you don’t have the missing tooth fragment, Dr. Taylor may need to address the problem with bonding, a simple cosmetic repair that uses composite bonding material to restore function and appearance to the affected tooth. A more extensive break may be addressed with a crown.
Cracked or fractured teeth
A cracked tooth can be a cosmetic problem or a major oral health issue, depending on its degree of severity. Longitudinal cracks, or “scoring lines,” are a surface issue, meaning they don’t go beyond your enamel or affect your dental health.
While minor hairline cracks only require cosmetic repair when they’re prominent, deeper cracks that extend inward from the biting surface of a tooth requires proper care, even if it doesn’t cause too much pain, discomfort, or sensitivity.
Without prompt treatment, a crack in your tooth is likely to spread and worsen, potentially exposing the underlying dentin to food particles and bacteria. If the crack extends all the way through to the tooth’s pulpy inner core, your tooth becomes more susceptible to infection.
If a deep fracture in your tooth has damaged its pulp, a root canal may be the best solution. By cleaning and sealing the canals inside your damaged tooth, this common endodontic treatment can save the tooth itself.
An avulsed or luxated tooth
Trip-and-fall accidents and impact injuries on the sports field are two leading causes of avulsed (knocked out) teeth and luxated (dislocated) teeth.
In either case, immediate treatment is your best chance of saving the injured tooth. Depending on the severity of the trauma, Dr. Taylor may be able to re-implant the tooth with a splint until the bone attaches to the root.
If your tooth has been completely knocked out, rinse it gently and place it in a small container with some milk or water to keep it moist. If your tooth is still attached to its socket, hold it in its proper position until you can get treatment.
Having a tooth knocked out of its socket can cause irreparable damage to its root as well as its supporting nerves and blood vessels. Even so, prompt treatment can make it possible to save your natural tooth and prevent infection.
Expert care when you need it
If you or your child has experienced tooth trauma, call Dr. Taylor’s Family Dental Center today. Whenever possible, Dr. Taylor and his team provide same-day treatment to give you the best chance of saving your damaged tooth.
Call 248-681-8100 to reach our Waterford, Michigan, office today, or click online to schedule a visit with Dr. Taylor at any time.