Dental Injuries

  • Medical Author:
    Donna S. Bautista, DDS

    Dr. Donna S. Bautista, DDS, completed her undergraduate studies at the University of California, San Diego with a bachelor of arts in biochemistry and cell biology. During her time at UC San Diego, she was involved in basic research including studying processes related to DNA transcription in the field of molecular biology. Upon graduation, she went on to attend dental school at the University of California, San Francisco. In addition to her formal dental training, she provided dental care for underserved communities in the Bay Area through clinics and health fairs. She also worked toward mentoring high school students interested in the field of dentistry.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Dental injury facts

  • A minor tooth fracture usually involves chipping of the enamel only.
  • A deeper fracture can involve both the enamel and the dentin of a tooth.
  • Death of pulp tissue can lead to serious tooth infection and abscess.
  • A serious fracture that exposes both the dentin and the pulp tissue should be treated promptly.
  • The most important variable affecting the success of reimplantation of a tooth that is knocked out is the amount of time that the tooth is out of its socket.
  • Care should be taken to handle the knocked-out tooth only by its crown and not by its root.
  • Prevention of dental injuries involves aligning protruding front teeth by dental braces and using face masks and mouthguards while participating in sports.

What are common causes of dental injuries?

Trauma to the face or teeth can be caused by auto accidents, falls, and injury from a variety of sports, such as football, hockey, soccer, volleyball, basketball, and baseball. Patients suffering significant head, neck, or facial trauma should be evaluated and treated in a hospital emergency room setting. Such trauma may involve bleeding from the nose or ears, concussion, dizziness, lapse of memory, disorientation, severe headache, earache, or breaking (fracture) of the skull and/or jaws. Most hospitals have on staff oral surgeons who can treat fractures of the upper or lower jaw and perform emergency tooth removal (dental extractions) and reconstruction of the dental arches.

Wear and tear due to cavities and chewing or biting down on hard objects, such as pencils, ice cubes, nuts, and hard candies, can also lead to tooth fractures. Dental injury without associated head and neck trauma can usually be evaluated and treated in a dental office. Such dental injuries include broken teeth (fractured teeth), teeth totally knocked out of the mouth, or teeth displaced by unexpected external forces. These dental injuries include swelling of the gum and oral tissue. Cold packs or ice cubes placed inside the mouth over the injured tooth or outside on the cheeks or lips can reduce pain and swelling before the patient reaches the dentist.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/25/2016

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