Summertime! It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses (or Fractures) a Tooth


As parents, dental trauma is not something at the forefront of our minds as the kiddos end the school year and begin a summer full of fun. But, this summertime fun can put children at risk for increased dental trauma. 

{We want to thank our our friends at Nelson Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics for providing and sponsoring this timely post.}

Just last summer in our office we had a number of calls from frantic parents whose children had had some sort of dental trauma ranging from being hit with a swing or zip line harness, to a water slide accident, to a trampoline mishap, to a bicycle fall.  Longer days here in the PNW are awesome because it gives kids more time to play in the daylight when the weather is great…but that also gives those kids more opportunity to get injured.

tooth trauma, tooth fracture, dental trauma, pediatric dentistWe often think about protecting kids’ teeth when they are playing organized sports like lacrosse, hockey, football, and basketball. But it’s pretty unreasonable for kids to wear mouth guards every time they step outside…or even play inside for that matter. (By the way, don’t let your basketball-playing kids take tips on how to wear their mouth guard from the NBA’s Steph Curry.)  With that, let’s focus on what to do if your child does have a traumatic injury to their mouth.

What is dental trauma?

Dental trauma should be considered when anything from a fat lip to a knocked out tooth occurs.  Even if the only visible sign on your little one is a puffy lip, it is possible that they may have experienced trauma to their teeth or jaws, and it should be reported to the child’s dentist.  More obvious trauma like a chipped, fractured, or knocked out tooth is usually good reason to contact that dentist immediately.  The sooner these issues are addressed, the better the chance for a positive outcome.

Take Home Tips

If a baby tooth is knocked out – call your dentist.  Keep the tooth but DO NOT put it back in the child’s mouth or tooth socket…we don’t know how close the developing adult tooth is, so trying to re-implant a baby tooth is not recommended.  Your dentist will ensure that the tooth socket is clean and healthy, and determine if any follow up monitoring is necessary.

If you notice that your child’s tooth is chipped, fractured, or just looks out of position (EVEN IF IT IS A BABY TOOTH) – call your dentist.  Yes, baby teeth will eventually fall out naturally, but depending on the type of injury to the baby tooth, the adult tooth may also be affected.  It is important for the dentist to assess these injuries and inform you of possible outcomes…even if those may be years down the road.

If an adult tooth is knocked out – call your dentist.  The best thing that can be done for a knocked out permanent tooth is to have it re-implanted, and the sooner this happens, the better.  If the tooth has been on the ground, you will want to GENTLY pick it up by the crown (the part you usually see in the mouth) and not the root.  If there is any gum tissue attached, it should remain intact.  Gently immerse the tooth in a cup of cold milk or your child’s saliva, and take it with you to the dentist.

If an adult tooth is chipped or fractured – call your dentist.  Oftentimes these can be the most painful for kids even though the injury itself may not seem so urgent.  The nerves of the tooth can be exposed pretty easily when kids chip their teeth, which leads to sensitivity.  If possible, keep the fractured portion of the tooth (the same way as if it had completely come out)…sometimes the dentist can repair a fracture by bonding the two pieces of the tooth back together.  Don’t panic if you can’t find the chipped part…dental materials have greatly improved in recent years, and tooth-colored build-ups are a good option for repair.  Check out the before (at the ER) and after photos of one of our patients who fractured her tooth last summer.

pediatric tooth trauma fracture - before and after restorationNotice a common theme here?  No matter the type or severity of the injury to your child’s mouth or teeth, it is important to call your dentist. This is part of the reason the AAPD recommends establishing a dental home for your child shortly after their first tooth erupts.  We want you and your child to have a place with which you are comfortable and you know the doctor and staff.  Dental traumas are often stressful and emotional…if we know you and your child, and you are comfortable with us, it can minimize some of the stress you and your little one are feeling.  We are here to help!

Wishing you and your family a wonderful summer without dental trauma!

Nelson Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics

Nelson Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics


  1. I really like the repeated advice to call a dentist if there’s any type of dental emergency. I’ve always figured that chipping a baby tooth isn’t a big deal, but I didn’t know that it could affect an adult tooth. I suppose the more you know, the better off you’re going to be, so I really do appreciate the advice. The last thing I want to do is mess up my child’s teeth for the future.

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