What to do when your child experiences tooth trauma

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Picture this: it's a sunny day at the baseball field and suddenly the batter hits a line drive towards your child. You jump up knowing that he'll make the easy out, but your pride quickly turns to horror as the ball takes an unexpected bounce and hits your son squarely in the mouth.

You run over to see if he's okay and as he stands up, he shows you his front tooth in his hand. You automatically go into panic mode ... what do you do now?

This week, in recognition of Children's Dental Health Month, we will look at what to do when your child experiences tooth trauma.

It is common for your child to be bumped in the face or fall down, often resulting in injury to their front teeth.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, almost half of all children will incur some type of tooth damage by the time they reach adolescence. Knowing the following first-aid measures can greatly reduce the risk of permanent tooth loss. 

What to do if a primary tooth, known as a baby tooth is knocked out:
· Do not put the tooth back in the socket because it may disrupt the developing permanent tooth.
· Contact your dentist immediately to see if your child needs to be seen.
· Additional treatment may be needed depending on the type of injury, the age of your child, and if the permanent tooth will be coming in soon.

What to do if a permanent tooth, or adult, tooth is knocked out:
· Clean the tooth by rinsing under tap water, holding the tooth by the crown, not the root; do not scrub the tooth.
· Put the tooth back into socket immediately - within 5 minutes -  and maintain pressure by biting on a clean napkin or washcloth.
· If the tooth has a broken root, do not attempt to replant.
· If you cannot put the tooth back in the socket, store the tooth in a cup of milk, saline or saliva. Do not store the tooth dry or in water. Teeth can be stored in milk for up to six hours. Use ice around milk container to keep tooth cold.
· Take the child to the dentist immediately; if you wait longer than 1 hour, the chances of a positive outcome diminish greatly.

What to do if a tooth is chipped or hit hard:
· Contact your dentist immediately to see if your child needs to be seen.
· Treatment varies from just observing the tooth to performing a root canal, but immediate evaluation may reduce the need for extensive dental treatment.

Unfortunately, most tooth trauma happens after business hours. So it is best to review your dentist's emergency numbers before accidents happen.

Finally, remember -  the best way to prevent dental trauma from sports-related activities is to wear a mouthguard when participating in sports.

To enroll your child in the TRICARE Dental Program, call 1-855-638-8371 or visit www.tricare.mil/CoveredServices/Dental/TDP.aspx