Chipped, cracked or broken teeth in kids: What to do

It seems when kids fall on their face and hurt their teeth there is an unnatural statistical tendency for two things: it will be after hours or on a weekend, and the front, most visible teeth are those that will be affected. It would be too easy for it to happen during regular dentist hours or for it to be a tooth that wouldn't be a cosmetic concern. The first time one of my kids fell and broke a tooth met both criteria. I'd dealt with quite a few childhood injuries already despite my kids being toddlers-something that comes with having fearless, energetic children, but admittedly I had never dealt with a chipped or broken tooth, so that first tearful experience and the research and dentist interaction afterwards has taught me a lot about dealing with a child's tooth injury.

Alright, so your kid has just slipped, fell, had something flung at his/her face and blood is everywhere, what do you do?

First take at least a moment to breathe, try your best to stay calm and not freak out; also avoid blaming yourself that was my first epic mistake. Then start cleaning away blood and identify the source, as this article is about tooth injuries in kids, let's assume it's in the mouth. Chances are you'll find the actual wound is far less severe than the blood level suggested. Head and mouth wounds always bleed a lot.

Apply pressure: Once you've found the source apply pressure to help stop that blood gush. Luckily, mouth wounds typically stop bleeding fairly quickly, stopping entirely within about 20 minutes, though blood may be present in drool for sometime after that. While you're applying pressure and offering hugs and cuddles, give the rest of the head a good examination, as chipped and broken teeth are often the result of falls, you may see other injuries to the head as well.

Evaluate the situation: Keep in mind that the gums are going to be puffy and swollen which can make things appear worse, for example, the broken tooth may look like it's at the gum line. Many dentists actually prefer you wait awhile so the swelling can reside. Offering anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as Motrin or Ibuprofen can help your child feel more comfortable and bring the swelling down.

If there is no other injury outside of the broken or chipped tooth, unless the injury is severe, don't bother with the ER, they can't do anything really but offer pain relief until a dentist is available. If the tooth was an adult tooth, and entirely knocked out, try to find it, place it in milk, and call an after hours dentist. In cases, they can be put back in. Offer fluids, but be careful of cold/hot options as if the nerve of the tooth is exposed, this may cause pain and opt for soft foods until you can get a dental appointment. You may also want to watch for signs of a concussion, depending on how the tooth was chipped or broken.

What will the dentist do?

If your child has only chipped the tooth a bit, chances are it will be filed smooth. For larger chips or fractures, the tooth may be capped or a white filling attached. If it's a baby tooth, and could affect the growth of the permanent teeth under the surface, it may be pulled. A dentist evaluation is necessary in any case.