Dental Trauma: Do You Know What to Do?

Soccer Kids

It’s that time of year again; warm weather, outdoor activities and sports. Unfortunately, along with all this fun we see an increase in the amount of patients coming in with broken teeth. Dental trauma can range from slightly hitting or chipping the tooth, to the tooth being completely knocked out. While nearly two thirds of incidences are accidents and cannot be prevented, about one third is due to some type of sports activity and in most cases can be prevented. The most important thing to take home from this article is to know who is at risk, where the incidences are most likely to happen, how to prevent it, and most importantly what to do if it occurs.

Who is at risk and where is it most likely to occur?

Children and adolescents make up the majority of the cases. For children with baby teeth, most accidents occur at home and just as often in boys as in girls. Incidences of trauma peak when they are learning to walk and still unsteady on their feet. Adolescents who are starting to get their adult teeth, trauma can occur at home but most often at school or during sports. Not surprisingly, it occurs more often in boys than girls. I’d like to think it’s due to boys being more rambunctious at this age, but it’s actually because boys are more likely to engage in sports.

Not all teeth are equally at risk. The most common tooth to receive trauma by far is the front two teeth. The risk of damaging these teeth increases the more they flare out (think buck teeth) and whether the lip can completely cover them or not. The more they flare and the less lip coverage, the higher the chance they will be damaged.

How to prevent Trauma?

For children, baby proof the house. The best way to do this is to refer to your local area guidelines on baby proofing and safety standards. Personally, I have seen the main cause for dental trauma being coffee tables, side tables, TV stands and chairs. Physically get on the same level as your child and see what they could hit themselves on if they stumble and fall.

For adolescents, one magical word: SPORTSGUARD! To answer a question I receive multiple times a week: “My son/daughter plays soccer/basketball/football/lacrosse or skateboards do they need a sports guard?” For all, YES! If you think dental trauma only occurs in contact sports like hockey or football think again. Basketball players have a 13x more chance of receiving dental trauma than a football player. In fact, it is those “non-contact sports” such as basketball and bike riding we see more trauma because sports guards are not regularly enforced.

Another question I am often asked is: “I bought a sports guard from the drugstore, is that good enough?” No two mouths are alike, so why should one size fit all? To make a sports guard we take an impression of your mouth, heat and mold the rubber to the precise shape of your teeth. What you receive is a snug fitting, custom made sports guard that will absorb and distribute traumatic forces which will protect your teeth.

What to do if Trauma happens?

Dental trauma can range from a bump to the teeth, to a chip, to the tooth completely falling out. The most important thing to do is to get to a dentist immediately so we can take x-rays, assess the damage and provide treatment if needed. Time is of utmost importance so it’s important to call your dentist or go to the closest office quickly. Be familiar with these situations for ADULT TEETH ONLY because it can really make a difference in the success of treatment and survival of the tooth:

  • If part of the tooth breaks, try to locate the fragment. Place the piece in a container with milk and get to a dentist ASAP.
  • If the whole tooth falls out, pick the tooth up by the crown (the white part, do not touch the root) rinse it under cold water for no longer than 10 seconds and place it back into the socket and get to a dentist ASAP.
  • If you are not comfortable placing it back into the socket yourself, do not rinse the tooth in water. Place the tooth in a container of milk, NOT WATER, and get to a dentist ASAP.
  • If you are in an area where there is no milk, have the person keep the tooth in their mouth tucked in their cheek. Ensure they are old enough so they won’t swallow or choke on it and get to a dentist ASAP

Dr. Maciel


If you haven’t gotten a mouthguard yet, what are you waiting for? As a patient of Winston Churchill Dental, it’s absolutely FREE. Treatment for a traumatized tooth can become costly for some, and monitoring can span weeks, years and even the rest of your life. However, as hard as we might try, we may not be able to prevent all dental traumas. It is important to remember that if trauma does occur, to get to your dentist as soon as possible.

Dr. Nicole Maciel, Winston Churchill Dental