Traumatic dental injuries generally occur as a result of an accident or playing sport, and treatment depends on the severity of any damage. While the majority of these injuries are minor (a chipped tooth for example), some are more severe (tooth displaced in its socket or knocked completely out of the mouth).
Sometimes neighbouring teeth suffer an injury that can go unnoticed. Regardless of the extent of the injury, you should visit your dentist as soon as possible.
Chipped or fractured tooth
If you have chipped or fractured your tooth, typically it can be repaired by reattaching the broken piece or placing a filling. If a significant part of your tooth has broken off, a crown may be needed to restore it. A crown is commonly referred to as a cap. If the pulp is exposed or damaged after a crown fracture, root canal treatment will likely be required.
A trauma to your tooth may result in a horizontal root fracture and, in such cases, the likelihood of success depends on the location of the fracture in the root. The closer the fracture to the tip of the root, the greater the chances of success. Fractures close to the gum line are least successful.
Root canal treatment is usually but not always necessary following a root fracture. Also, stabilisation with a splint may be required to help the fracture to heal. This injury is not common.
Displaced (luxated) tooth
An injury may push a tooth sideways or it may push a tooth out of its socket or into its socket. While your dentist will initially reposition and stabilise your tooth, root canal treatment is usually needed afterwards. The prognosis for these teeth is guarded.
Lost tooth (avulsion)
If your tooth is knocked completely out of your mouth, replace it in its socket immediately (within 30 minutes) and see a dentist without delay.
- Pick up the tooth by the crown and not the root.
- If dirty, gently rinse the tooth with water. Do not scrub it.
- Reposition the tooth in the socket immediately (within 30 minutes) and hold it in place.
- If you can’t replace the tooth immediately, keep it moist (in milk for example) and see a dentist without delay. Do not wrap it in a tissue.
A stabilising splint will be placed for the next few weeks and root canal treatment should usually be started within a week or two. A successful outcome will depend on the length of time your tooth was out of your mouth and how it was stored before being repositioned in its socket. The prognosis for these teeth is guarded at best.