Traumatic Injuries Q&A
What is a traumatic dental injury?
Traumatic injuries often occur during accidents or sports activities. Chipped teeth are the most common. Dislodged or knocked-out teeth are less common but are much more severe. Any dental injury, even if seemingly mild, will have to be examined by the endodontist immediately. Occasionally, neighboring teeth will also suffer an injury which may only be identified during a dental exam. With the advanced skills and technologies available to endodontists, they can often save teeth. If patients experience a traumatic injury, go to the endodontist immediately.
How is a chipped tooth treated?
Most chipped or broken tooth crowns can be fixed either by returning the broken portion or by applying a tooth-colored filling. If a large part of the tooth crown has broken off, an artificial crown could be required. If the pulp is exposed or damaged, a root canal will usually be needed. If patients find it painful to breathe through the mouth or drink cold fluids, they should bite on a clean, moist piece of gauze or cloth to minimize discomfort until they reach the endodontist’s office. Do not use oral ointments or aspirin on the affected tooth.
How is a knocked-out tooth treated?
If the tooth was pushed sideways and out of its socket, the endodontist will need to reposition and secure the tooth. Root canal treatment is generally needed for permanent teeth which have been dislodged like this and will begin a few days after the injury. If the tooth has been completely knocked out, it is important to get to the endodontist right away. When handling the tooth, patients should be extremely gentle and avoid touching the root area. If it’s possible to do so, place the tooth back in the socket. If not, patients should attempt holding it between their cheek and gum or, as a last resort, placing it in a glass of milk. When the tooth is returned to the socket by the endodontist, a stabilizing splint will hold the tooth in place for a few weeks. Depending on root development, the endodontist may perform a root canal a week or two later.
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