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A baseball bypasses your child’s glove and strikes his tooth instead. Or maybe Junior bites down on a jawbreaker after dinner. In either situation, the result is the same: Your child has chipped a tooth and you are freaking out.
But you’re not the only parent who’s been in this situation. About 50% of children will suffer a tooth injury during their childhood.
Fortunately, children’s tooth injuries typically are not life-threatening. However, if you’re like me, they can still leave you panicked and feeling like the worst parent in the world.
I did some research and have compiled a guide on what to do if your child has chipped a tooth. Before I dig into what I learned, remember that certain steps can be taken at home, but a dentist will need to step in at some point, too.
So, let’s get started…
Child Chipped a Tooth? Remain Calm
Worrying about your child’s chipped tooth won’t help the situation; in fact, it may make it worse.
Instead, see if Junior is in pain, and set up an appointment with his pediatric dentist right away. The sooner the dentist is able to see your child, the better — especially if over half of your child’s tooth is broken, as the nerve might be exposed.
The faster you act, the more likely you are to save Junior’s tooth and avoid expensive dental work down the road.
If you can’t get in to see a dentist right away, don’t fear. Your child might not even realize his tooth is chipped, and if you call attention to the problem, you may end up making him stressed out or feel awkward about his smile.
What to do at Home
While you wait to see the dentist, look at Junior’s mouth to make sure that no tooth fragments are lodged in his lips, gums or tongue. Then, use water to rinse the mouth and keep it clean.
If you notice that the chipped tooth is bleeding, apply wet gauze to the tooth, and instruct Junior to hold the gauze in place with his teeth. This should be done for several minutes — long enough for the pressure to cause the bleeding to stop.
Next, apply a cold washcloth to your child’s face to keep the swelling down. Even sucking on a yummy popsicle may help to alleviate pain and swelling — and thus take the edge off of a not-so-sweet situation.
Other Steps to Take at Home
If you do find any chipped tooth pieces, store them in a glass of milk to keep them moist. Your dentist just may be able to reattach these fragments using special glue.
For the child who is in pain, a children’s pain reliever available over the counter may be a major help. Your pharmacist can give you advice on what to choose.
What to Have Your Dentist Do
During a dental appointment, your pediatric dentist will examine your child’s tooth and determine how to repair it based on the chip’s severity. Here are four possible treatment options:
First, for a minor chip that affects nothing more than the enamel — the hard outer covering of the tooth — a simple filling may be sufficient for filling in the gap in the tooth.
However, if your child has suffered more serious damage, a dental crown or cap may be needed to protect his pearly white and restore its normal appearance.
In some cases, the tooth damage is so severe that a crown or filling will is not enough to repair it. In this case, your dentist might suggest improving the tooth’s appearance with a dental veneer — a custom-made, wafer-thin shell that covers a tooth’s front surface.
Finally, if your child’s tooth root is exposed — the worst situation when facing a tooth injury — root canal treatment might be necessary to restore his tooth structure and keep it from being damaged further.
When it comes to a tooth filling, composite resin might be the best choice over silver-colored fillings, known as amalgam fillings.
Amalgam fillings, which feature such metals as mercury, zinc, silver, and copper — have been used for over 100 years due to their durability. These fillings are also relatively quick to apply.
However, the disadvantages of silver fillings are that they can tarnish or corrode over time. In addition, a dentist must remove more of a child’s tooth structure to provide a secure opening for holding a filling.
On the contrary, composite resin fillings, or tooth-colored fillings, are hard to detect due to their attractive finish. Your child’s pediatric dentist can match the resin color to his tooth color almost perfectly thanks to modern technology.
Furthermore, composite resin fillings are bonded to teeth, which means the fillings are sealed and thus help to prevent cavities. In addition, less tooth structure needs to be removed during a composite resin filling procedure.
Composite Resins Versus Crowns
If your child’s chipped tooth is a baby tooth, I suggest giving him a composite resin filling instead of a crown, which is more permanent and also more expensive.
If the tooth is a permanent one, using a composite resin rather than a crown may still be in your child’s best interest until he is done growing. I would definitely stick with composite resin if your child plays contact sports.
Use the Chipped Tooth as a Lesson
If your child has chipped a tooth, why not treat the ordeal as a teaching experience?
For instance, give him the responsibility of keeping his chipped tooth safe before his pediatric dental appointment. This can increase his confidence, particularly if he’s feeling self-conscious about his lost tooth, and it may make the experience more fun considering the circumstances.
In addition, ask your pediatric dentist about creating a mouth guard for your child if he plays sports, as this device will help to protect him from further tooth trauma.
You may also want to instruct your child to avoid hard candies and foods, including ice, to prevent future dental injuries.
How We Can Help
We offer a wide range of treatment options for your child, ranging from fillings to crowns, depending on your child’s needs after he’s chipped a tooth.
Contact us to learn more about our restorative and cosmetic procedures designed to keep you and your family smiling confidence for years to come.