September 2013 articles

When Sports Injuries Strike

Watching your child slide into home for the first time is one of the best feelings in the world – and watching that same child pop up from home plate with a chipped tooth is one of the worst. If you find yourself in a similar mouth or tooth injury situation, the key is to stay calm but act quickly for the best chances of saving or repairing the injured tooth.

Broken Tooth
For a chipped or broken tooth, have your child rinse his or her mouth with warm water, then use a cold compress to reduce the swelling that may occur if the lip was hit as well. If the chipped tooth is painful or sensitive to the air or hot and cold, that’s a sign that it has chipped down to the dentin underneath the enamel. If you see a little pink or bleeding where the tooth is broken, it may be a sign that the pulp is damaged as well. Call your dentist as soon as possible.1 If you can find the chipped piece of tooth, bring it along, although the dentist will usually just replace the missing piece with filling material.

Knocked-Out Tooth
When a permanent tooth becomes knocked backwards or out of position, push it back into position, if possible. If the tooth is knocked out of the mouth entirely, try to find it and rinse it off gently with cool water. Don’t scrub the tooth, be sure to hold it by the enamel-covered crown, and try to avoid touching the root. By far the best choice for saving the tooth is to place it back into your child’s empty tooth socket immediately. If that’s not an option, keep the tooth moist and get the child to the dentist as quickly as possible. Put the tooth into a cup of milk – or less satisfactory options include saline or room temperature water.

If your child participates in contact sports, you may consider investing in a tooth saver kit at the local drugstore. These kits have a container with a pH-balanced solution, which is ideal for transporting a knocked-out tooth. Immediately call your dentist or head to the emergency room.2 Getting the tooth back into the socket within the first 30 minutes gives it the best chance of surviving. Don’t try to put a baby tooth back into the socket; you may damage the permanent tooth under the gums.

Broken Jaw
A broken jaw will cause the face to swell up and bruise right away. Your child may have trouble closing his or her jaw or getting teeth to align. To keep swelling to a minimum, apply a cold compress and wrap a long bandage underneath the jaw, tying it on top of the head. Get to the emergency room immediately. A broken jaw is not only painful, but such an injury can cause significant bleeding and/or breathing problems.1

Before your child starts a new sport or joins a new team, be sure to ask the coach what emergency plans are in place. They should have a well-equipped first aid kit (including a tooth saver kit for transporting knocked-out teeth), a checklist for what to do in emergencies and a cell phone that’s easily accessible.3 Coaches should also require athletes to wear all the appropriate safety gear – and whether it’s the coach’s policy or not, you should make sure your child always wears a well-fitting mouthguard while playing, even for practices or casual scrimmages.


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