Frequently Asked Questions

Acute Dental Trauma

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What is acute dental trauma?

Acute dental trauma is a serious injury to one or more parts of your mouth. Your injury may include damage to any of your teeth, the tooth socket, the tooth root, or your jaw. You can also have injuries to the soft tissues of your mouth. These include your tongue, cheeks, gums, and lips. Severe injuries can expose the soft pulp inside the tooth.

What causes acute dental trauma?

Dental trauma usually occurs from a direct hit to your mouth or jaw. Accidents, such as falling off a bicycle or a car accident, can cause dental trauma. A direct hit can also happen during sports activities.

What are the signs and symptoms of acute dental trauma?

  • Tooth damage: You may have a tooth that is cracked, chipped, loose, out of place, or missing. You may feel a sharp or rough edge on your tooth.

  • Bleeding or bruising: You may have bruises or cuts on your lips and face. Your gums or other soft tissues inside your mouth may bleed.

  • Facial fracture: You may not be able to move your jaw or your mouth because a bone in your face is broken.

  • Tooth or bite change: Your teeth may not fit together properly when you close your mouth.

How is acute dental trauma diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your mouth and ask how you were injured. He will ask about your symptoms. Tell your healthcare provider if you have had surgeries or other procedures on your mouth.

How is acute dental trauma treated?

Treatment will depend on the type of dental trauma you have. A tooth that moves slightly may heal on its own. A soft tissue wound may be closed using stitches. You may need to see your dentist for any tooth repair procedures. You may also need any of the following:

  • Pain medicine: You may be given medicine to take away or decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine.

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.

  • Td vaccine: This vaccine is a booster shot used to help prevent diphtheria and tetanus. The Td booster may be given to adolescents and adults every 10 years or for certain wounds and injuries.

  • Mouthwash: Your healthcare provider may want you to use a germ-killing mouth wash 2 to 3 times a day. This will help decrease swelling and prevent infection.

How do I manage my acute dental trauma?

  • Apply ice to decrease pain and swelling. Use a cold pack or put crushed ice in a bag, cover with a towel, and place on your jaw.

  • Avoid using your damaged tooth. Chewing food on your damaged tooth may put too much pressure on it and worsen your injury. Eat soft foods or drink liquids while your mouth heals.

  • Keep your wounds clean. Gargle with a salt water solution. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 cup of warm water. You can also clean your wounds with hydrogen peroxide swabs. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on how to clean your wounds.

  • Wear protective gear when you play sports. Always use a helmet and mouth guard that meet safety standards.

What are the risks of acute dental trauma?

Without treatment, you may develop an infection in your mouth. Your tooth may become discolored or stay out of place. A chipped tooth with a sharp edge may cut your tongue or other soft tissues around it. You may lose one or more teeth.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.

  • You have new symptoms, or your symptoms become worse.

  • You feel pain when air gets in contact with your damaged tooth.

  • You have tooth pain when you eat foods that are hot, cold, sweet, or sour.

  • Your tooth's color becomes darker.

  • You have questions or concern about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate help?

Seek help immediately or call 911 if:

  • You lose one or more of your teeth, or your tooth moves out of place.

  • You have severe bleeding in your mouth that does not stop.

  • You have trouble breathing.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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