Dental Injuries (cont.)

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What is a displaced tooth?

Instead of being completely knocked out of the mouth, a tooth can be displaced. A displaced tooth may be pulled out and appear elongated, or be pushed in and appear shorter. A displaced tooth can also be pushed forward, backward, sideways, or rotated. While not an emergency, the sooner the dentist can splint or realign the tooth with orthodontic brackets and wires, the easier it can be brought back into proper alignment. Trauma significant enough to cause tooth displacement can also lead to pulp injury. Therefore, a displaced tooth should be evaluated periodically for several months to determine if a root canal procedure or tooth extraction is needed.

Prevention of dental injuries

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Prevention of dental injuries involves aligning protruding front teeth by dental braces and using face masks and mouthguards while participating in sports. Mouthguards have been shown to reduce trauma not only to teeth, gums, and the surrounding jaw bone but also to reduce injury to the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) and to reduce the intensity and number of head concussions. Mouthguards also reduce pressure and bone deformation of the skull when a force is directed to the chin.

Before the mandatory use of face masks and mouthguards for high school and college football players in l963, 50% of all football injuries involved the face and the mouth. Since the mandatory use of these protective devices, dental injuries in football players have almost been eliminated. It is now recommended that mouthguards be worn, not only for organized football, but also for unorganized football, baseball, basketball, racquetball, soccer, ice, field, and street hockey, wrestling, boxing, martial arts, volleyball, rollerblading, skating, skateboarding, and bicycling.

Mouthguards can be purchased in pharmacies and sports supply stores and molded at home. They can also be custom made by the dentist. Store-bought mouthguards are less expensive than custom-made ones. However, the store-bought ones may not fit the athlete's mouth, may become loose, may be uncomfortably bulky, and may interfere with speech or breathing. The ideal mouthguards are custom made by a dentist. An impression is made of the athlete's upper dental arch to make a mold of his/her teeth and gums. A custom mouthguard made of a vinyl acetate ethylene copolymer (a special plastic) is then fabricated from this mold in the dental office or by a dental laboratory. A well-fitting custom mouthguard is comfortable and will not interfere with breathing and speech.

Medically reviewed by Kenneth S. Rotskoff, MD, DDS; American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery


Andreasen, Jens O., et al. Traumatic Dental Injuries: A Manual. 2nd ed. Ames, IA: Blackwell, 2003.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/14/2014

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Dental Injuries - Describe Your Experience Question: Have you or your child ever fractured a tooth? How did this happen? Please share your experience.
Dental Injuries - Knocked-Out Teeth Question: Have you or your child ever had a tooth knocked out? How was it treated?
Dental Injuries - Mouthguards and Prevention Question: Do you or your child wear a mouthguard while participating in sports? What other ways do you try to prevent dental injuries?