Dental Injuries

Expert reviewer, Dr Steve Preddy, Dental Clinical Director, Bupa Dental Services, Bupa UK.
Next review due May 2019.

Any number of things can cause a dental injury, such as a fall, playing sport and road traffic accidents. If you receive a blow to the face, teeth can become loose, chipped or knocked out completely.

This article explains what to do if you have a dental injury, what the treatments are, and how to care for your healing mouth.

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First aid for dental injuries

If you or someone you’re with has a dental injury, it's important to get the right help.

Call for emergency help if the person involved has been knocked out (lost consciousness) or if there’s any risk to their breathing caused by swelling and bleeding. Otherwise, contact a dentist straight away or, if it’s outside usual hours, contact an out-of-hours dentist or go to the accident and emergency department at the nearest hospital.

Try to do the following if your tooth has been knocked out.

  • Try not to touch the tooth's root – it's best if you handle it by the crown (the white bit at the top). 
  • If possible, put the tooth back into its socket in your mouth. This is called reimplanting. If the tooth is dirty, gently rinse it with milk or cold water, but don't scrub the tooth. Try to put it in the right way round, but don't worry too much as your dentist can fix this. The important thing is to put it back in as quickly as possible.  
  • Bite down gently on a clean handkerchief to keep your tooth back in place in its socket.
  • If you can't reimplant your tooth, store it in milk or saliva (by spitting into a container) or place it inside your mouth between your cheek and gum until you can get to a dentist.
  • If you haven't got the whole tooth, don't try to put a broken tooth back in your mouth. Store it in a pot of saliva or milk as your dentist may be able to reattach it. 
  • Even if you don't think your tooth is broken, it's important to see your dentist as soon as possible. There may be an injury below the gumline that you can't see.

Treatment of dental injuries

If you’ve got a dental injury, you might have other injuries that need treating too. This means you might need to have other investigations such as radiographs or a CT scan. Below is an overview of how your dentist will treat loose, knocked out, or chipped teeth.

Loose teeth

If your tooth is loose, your dentist may suggest a technique called splinting. A splint is often made from plastic and is placed on your loose tooth and the healthy teeth either side of it. Your dentist will take impressions of your teeth because the splint is made specifically for you. It may stay in place with suction from your saliva but it should be kept in place either with cement or wires attached to nearby teeth. You’ll need to wear it for one to two weeks.

Knocked out teeth

Your dentist will reimplant your tooth or if you’ve already done that they will check the position and whether it needs to be redone. They may then fit a splint to keep it in position.

Chipped teeth

If part of your tooth has broken off, your dentist will smooth the edge and fit a tooth-coloured filling. Your dentist will examine you and remove any fragments of tooth from your lips or gums and clean the area. You may need dissolvable stitches. If the blood vessels and pulp inside the tooth have been damaged, you may need root canal treatment.

Root fractures

If the root of your tooth has been damaged, you dentist may need to take your tooth out or may suggest root canal treatment to save the tooth.

How to care for your teeth afterwards

Eat soft foods and be careful when eating. If your mouth is swollen from the injury, be careful you don’t bite the swollen areas.

Keep your mouth and teeth clean, you could use a mouthwash or put a teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water to gargle. Be gentle but thorough when you clean your teeth.

Don’t play any contact sports or do any activity that could harm your healing mouth, until your dentists advises it’s okay to do so.

Take painkillers, such as ibuprofen, during the first few days if your mouth is sore. If your dentist has prescribed antibiotics, make sure you take the full course.

Contact your dentist if you feel increasing pain and have an unpleasant taste in your mouth, because these could be signs of an infection.

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Related information

    • Management of dental trauma. Medscape., published 13 May 2015 
    • Caring for your mouth after a dental injury. British Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons., accessed 31 March 2016 
    • Mouth and tooth injuries. St John NZ., accessed 31 March 2016 
    • Knocked out teeth. British Dental Association., accessed 31 March 2016
  • Reviewed by Natalie Heaton, Specialist Health Editor, Bupa Health Content Team, May 2016.
    Expert reviewer, Dr Steve Preddy, Dental Clinical Director, Bupa Dental Services, Bupa UK.
    Next review due May 2019.

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