Dental Trauma (Child)

A blow to the mouth can cause damage to the teeth. This is called dental trauma. Teeth may become loose, fall out, or break. Teeth may also be pushed up into the socket. The tissues inside the mouth might be injured. In rare cases, the jaw is injured. A dental trauma can cause a lot of bleeding, pain, and swelling. Baby teeth that are injured or fall out are not put back in place. A permanent tooth that has been knocked out will be replaced in the socket if possible.

A dental trauma can be frightening. It must be treated as soon as possible. Pick up a broken or knocked-out tooth by the crown (chewing surface). Don't touch the root. Keep the tooth moist by putting it in a small container of milk. Don't use tap water. Water can very quickly harm the tooth. You can also use a special tooth-saving solution that you may have in your home first-aid kit. Take the tooth with you to a dentist right away.

Home care

Your child’s healthcare provider may prescribe medicine for pain and to prevent infection. Follow all instructions for giving these medicines to your child. If your child is given an antibiotic, make sure to give all the medicine for the full number of days until it's gone. Keep giving the medicine even if your child has no symptoms.

General care

  • Apply a cold pack or ice compress for up to 20 minutes a few times a day. This is to help reduce pain and relieve swelling. To make a cold pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Cover it with a thin, dry cloth before putting it on your child’s skin.

  • Serve your child soft foods until they feel better. It may be difficult for them to chew hard foods for a few days.

  • Watch your child for signs of infection (see below).

Special note to parents

To help prevent dental injuries, follow these instructions:

  • Teach your child not to push other children when playing.

  • Make sure your child wears a helmet and mouthguard when playing sports, riding a bike, skateboarding, or roller skating.

  • Teach your child to use the ladder when getting out of a swimming pool.

  • Don’t allow your child to jump off a moving swing.

  • Teach your child to be careful of their teeth and friends' teeth when playing.

  • Never let your children use their teeth to cut or open things. Have them use scissors, if age appropriate.

  • Make sure children see the dentist routinely to make sure their teeth are healthy.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider as advised.

When to get medical advice

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Fever (see "Fever and children" below)

  • Aching pain in a tooth

  • A tooth that is sensitive to cold

  • Headache, dizziness, or confusion

  • Redness or swelling around the tooth

  • Pain that gets worse

  • Fluid leaking from the area around the tooth

Fever and children

Use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Don’t use a mercury thermometer. There are different kinds and uses of digital thermometers. They include:

  • Rectal. For children younger than 3 years old, a rectal temperature is the most accurate.

  • Forehead (temporal). This works for children age 3 months and older. If a child under 3 months old has signs of illness, this can be used for a first pass. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.

  • Ear (tympanic). Ear temperatures are accurate after 6 months of age, but not before.

  • Armpit (axillary). This is the least reliable but may be used for a first pass to check a child of any age with signs of illness. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.

  • Mouth (oral). Don’t use a thermometer in your child’s mouth until they are at least 4 years old.

Use the rectal thermometer with care. Follow the product maker’s directions for correct use. Insert it gently. Label it and make sure it’s not used in the mouth. It may pass on germs from the stool. If you don’t feel OK using a rectal thermometer, ask the healthcare provider what type to use instead. When you talk with any healthcare provider about your child’s fever, tell them which type you used.

Below are guidelines to know if your young child has a fever. Your child’s healthcare provider may give you different numbers for your child. Follow your provider’s specific instructions.

Fever readings for a baby under 3 months old:

  • First, ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead: 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 99°F (37.2°C) or higher

Fever readings for a child age 3 months to 36 months (3 years):

  • Rectal, forehead, or ear: 102°F (38.9°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 101°F (38.3°C) or higher

Call the healthcare provider in these cases:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher in a child of any age

  • Fever of 100.4° (38°C) or higher in baby younger than 3 months

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under age 2

  • Fever that lasts for 3 days in a child age 2 or older

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