Tooth Trauma Doesn't Have to Mean Tooth Loss
Tooth decay and other oral diseases aren’t the only dangers your teeth face — accidental injuries also pose a risk. Fortunately, much can be done to save injured teeth, if you act quickly.
Dental injuries where part of the enamel crown has chipped off are the most common. Even if only one tooth appears damaged, adjacent teeth and bone might also have been damaged internally. Most chip injuries can be repaired either by reattaching the broken crown or with a tooth-colored filling or veneer. If the damage has extended into the inner tooth pulp then a root canal treatment might ultimately be necessary.
Teeth that have been knocked loose from normal alignment (dislodged) or where the entire tooth with its root has separated from the socket (avulsed) are rare but severe when they occur. It’s imperative to see a dentist as soon as possible — even more than five minutes’ of elapsed time can drastically reduce the tooth’s survivability. Dislodged teeth are usually splinted to adjacent teeth for several weeks; we would then carefully monitor the healing process and intervene with endodontic treatment (focused on the tooth’s interior) should something unfavorable occur.
With the possible exception of a primary (baby) tooth, an avulsed tooth should be placed back in the socket as soon as possible. This can be done by someone on scene, as long as the tooth is handled gently, the root not touched, and the tooth rinsed with cold, clean water if it has become dirty. If no one is available to do this, the tooth should be placed in milk to avoid drying out the root, and the patient and tooth transported to a dentist immediately. Once in the socket, the treatment is similar as for a dislodged tooth with splinting and careful watching.
The damaged tooth should be checked regularly. Your body’s defense mechanism could still reject it, so there’s a danger the root could be eaten away, or resorbed. Some forms of resorption can’t be treated — the aim then is to preserve the natural tooth for as long as possible, and then replace it with a life-like restoration to regain form and function.
If you would like more information on the treatment of injured teeth, please contact Dr. Nick Pournaras by calling (803) 794-5430 to schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Trauma & Nerve Damage to Teeth.”