With the start of school comes an increased risk of kids hurting their teeth and mouths during activities, says Dr. Ramon Roges.
Dr. Roges is the director of the Urgent Care and Dental Trauma Clinic at the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC and is also the team dentist for USC Trojan athletes. He is an endodontist ÔÇô a dentist who specializes in treating the tissue inside teeth ÔÇô and is an expert in treating traumatic dental injuries.
"There are lots of dental injuries that can happen at school," Dr. Roges says. "Not only are there sports injuries, but kids can also fall on the playground, have a bike or skateboard accident, or get in a fight."
The most common kinds of mouth injuries are loosened, broken or knocked out front teeth and cuts on the lips and gums, he says. However, injuries can also cause teeth to be pushed too far into the gums or make moving the jaw painful. In some cases, a dental injury can lead to a serious infection.
If a child hurts their teeth or mouth, acting fast will help protect their smile, Dr. Roges says.
If a tooth is broken or knocked out:
1. Pick up the tooth only by its crown (the end away from the gums).
2. Gently remove dirt with a very quick rinse of water; do not scrub the tooth.
3. If possible, place the tooth back in the child's mouth and have him or her gently bite on a washcloth to keep it in place. However, this shouldn't be done if it's a baby tooth that's been completely knocked out.
4. If the tooth can't be put back in the child's mouth, store the tooth in a Save-A-Tooth jar (available at drugstores) or in a small container of cold milk. Never store the tooth in plain water or let it dry out because that will hurt the soft tissue inside the tooth.
5. Visit a dentist as soon as possible; within a day is best. Treating a tooth injury quickly means a better chance of fully saving the tooth.
6. The dentist may want to see the child again later in order to make sure the tooth is healing correctly and is not getting infected.
Wearing a mouth guard during sports and other activities is important for preventing these kinds of painful mouth injuries, Dr. Roges says.
Moldable mouth guards can be purchased from drugstores or sports stores. Dentists can also make custom mouth guards that fit very well and stay in place during use.
"During school time, there are a lot of very active kids," Dr. Roges says. "It's best to prevent these injuries in the first place."
The Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC offers low-cost dental care to children and adults, including urgent care. To learn more, please visit dentistry.usc.edu/patient-care or call (213) 740-2805.