Kids Health Info

Broken or dislodged tooth

  • A fall or knock to the face can result in a child biting their lip or tongue, damaging the gums or dislodging a tooth. These injuries can cause bleeding or swelling, and urgent medical treatment may be needed if there is an increased risk of a blocked airway. If a tooth is knocked out, knowing the correct first aid may save the tooth.

    Signs and symptoms

    Signs and symptoms of a dental injury include:

    • bleeding from the mouth, lips or gums
    • pain around the mouth
    • loose or broken tooth (from impact)
    • swelling of the lips or jaw
    • unable to close mouth/jaw.

    When to see a doctor

    Injuries to the teeth or mouth should always be followed up with a doctor or dentist. Minor dental injuries usually completely heal if proper treatment has been provided. However, with some severe injuries, the teeth may discolour, become infected, develop problems with the root or gums and even fall out.

    Call an ambulance immediately if:

    • your child is unconscious or has serious injuries
    • your child is having trouble breathing
    • there is a lot of blood going down the throat
    • there is swelling of the tongue or throat that could affect breathing.

    Bleeding or swollen lips, tongue or gums

    Check your child’s airway. If there is no breathing difficulty and bleeding is slow, help your child become as comfortable as possible. Using a sterile dressing or a clean towel (or for cut lips, a moist tissue), apply firm but gentle pressure to the bleeding. Take your child to your GP or nearest hospital.

    Knocked-out tooth

    If it is an adult tooth, handle the tooth carefully to prevent further damage. Try not to touch the root (the part of the tooth that was under the gum).

    • If the tooth is dirty, rinse it with milk (use water if your child has a dairy allergy).
    • Holding the tooth at the top (the crown), use gentle pressure to place the tooth back into the socket (gum). Keep the tooth in position by getting your child to bite down on some fabric (e.g a clean handkerchief) placed between the top and bottom teeth. Only replace the tooth if safe to do so – if your child is unconscious or drowsy it is not appropriate to reinsert the tooth.
    • If you can’t put the tooth back in the gum, store the tooth in a small, clean container of milk (or enough of the child’s saliva to keep the tooth moist if milk is not suitable).

    Take your child and the tooth to a dentist or hospital immediately.

    If it is a baby tooth or you are unsure, store the tooth in a small, clean container of milk (or enough of the child’s saliva to keep the tooth moist if milk is not suitable). Take your child and the container to a dentist or hospital immediately. If your child has knocked out a baby tooth, it won’t be reimplanted, but a dentist should still check the gums.

    Broken or displaced tooth

    If a tooth has broken and you can find the broken piece, place the piece in a container of milk (or enough of the child’s saliva to keep the tooth moist) as it may be possible to repair the tooth. Take your child and any broken tooth pieces to a dentist or hospital as soon as possible. Getting treatment quickly is important so the tooth can be saved, especially if the nerve of the tooth has been exposed.

    If a tooth has been displaced (pushed in to the gum, partially out of the socket or moved to a different position), take your child to a dentist or hospital as soon as possible. Getting treatment quickly is important so the tooth and gums can heal properly.

    Preventing dental injuries in sport

    More than a third of dental injuries in school-aged children happen when they are playing sport. Sports where there is a risk of collision with equipment or other players (e.g. hockey, football, cricket, netball) can result in severe dental injuries, but even low-impact sports can put your child at risk.

    Wearing a mouthguard during sports is the best way to prevent severe dental injuries. A mouth guard is most effective when it fits closely to the teeth, is comfortable to wear and allows for normal breathing and speech.

    • Custom-fitted mouthguards are made by a dentist or dental technician from a mould of your child’s teeth.
    • Boil-and-bite mouthguards can be purchased from pharmacies and are designed so you can fit them on your child after softening the plastic in hot water. These mouthguards are inexpensive, but often are a poor fit inside the mouth and may not offer full protection.

    All mouthguards should be regularly checked to ensure they are fitting well.

    Key points to remember

    • If your child has a dental injury and is having trouble breathing, or if there is a lot of blood or swelling, call an ambulance.
    • Apply firm but gentle pressure to bleeding.
    • Replace a dislodged adult tooth, or place it in a little milk, and head to the nearest hospital. Time is critical.
    • Always encourage your child to wear a mouthguard when playing sports to prevent dental injuries.

    For more information


    Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Community Information and Dentistry department. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.

    Reviewed March 2018.

    Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit www.rchfoundation.org.au. 

     


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Disclaimer
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.