What You Should Know About Traumatic Dental Injuries

Knowing what to expect after suffering traumatic dental injuries may help people save their smiles. According to a study published in the Australian Dental Journal, about one-fifth of adults and adolescents and one-third of toddlers and children globally have suffered dental injuries. Such trauma may affect people’s ability to communicate, eat, drink, and even breathe.

What Is a Traumatic Dental Injury?

Traumatic dental injuries occur when people suffer impact trauma to their teeth, the soft tissues of the oral cavity or mouth, or both. Some of the most common types of dental injuries include chipped or fractured teeth, root fractures, dislodged teeth, and avulsed teeth.

Traumatic dental injuries may cause a range of effects, such as pain, bleeding, and swelling. In some cases, people may have trouble breathing, talking, or swallowing due to these injuries.

What Causes Dental Trauma?

A variety of causes contribute to the occurrence of traumatic dental injuries in children and adults. Some of the most common causes of such trauma include:

  • Slips and falls
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Contact and combat sports
  • Physical altercations and assaults 

People may also be injured at work in accidents involving equipment, vehicles, or slips and falls on the job.

How Are Dental Injuries Treated?

Many traumatic dental injuries are treated by endodontists (dentists who specialize in treating injured teeth.) These specialists use their advanced skills, technologies, and techniques to implement solutions that relieve pain and preserve people’s smiles. Since dentists may have the ability to salvage teeth when people receive treatment for dental trauma within 30 minutes of their injuries, it is crucial for injured victims to seek dental intervention right away. Most endodontists are extremely flexible in responding to dental emergencies. 

The treatment people may receive for dental trauma depends on a variety of factors including the type and severity of their injuries and the age of the victims. Most traumatic dental injuries happen to children and teenagers. Since children and teens have immature teeth and prepubertal facial growth, the treatment for tooth injuries in younger age groups may be different than treatment for adults.

Some people who are hurt in drunk driving accidents or other incidents resulting in serious injuries to their teeth may require stabilization using bonding or a splint. Others may need root canal therapy or a crown fitting. In severe cases, traumatic dental injuries may require surgery to save the tooth or to prevent additional damages or complications. 

Treatment for Cracked or Broken Teeth

Most dental injuries involve chipped, cracked, or broken teeth. These can often be repaired by reattaching the broken piece, adding a tooth-colored filling, or placing an artificial cap over the broken tooth. If the damage extends to the root, a full-coverage cap may be required to restore tooth function. In severe cases, extraction of the tooth may be necessary.

Treatment for Knocked-Out Teeth

Commonly referred to as “avulsed teeth”, a knocked-out tooth is one of the most serious injuries to permanent teeth. When a tooth is knocked out, nerves, blood vessels, and supporting tissues are disrupted. A knocked-out tooth will almost always require a root canal because the damaged blood vessels cannot be repaired.

Treatment for Root Fractures

When a traumatic dental injury results in a root fracture, the location of the fracture has a significant impact on the tooth’s prognosis. A horizontal root fracture that is located near the root-tip has a better chance of recovery than a fracture that is near the gumline. In many cases, a sprint is required to stabilize the tooth while it heals. Other times, root canal therapy may be required to save the tooth. For the most severe root fractures, extraction may be the only option. 

What Are the Potential Complications of Dental Trauma?

Even with prompt treatment, those who suffer traumatic dental injuries may experience complications. People may develop secondary infections due to dental trauma, especially if they do not keep their mouths adequately clean during the healing process. Other possible complications resulting from traumatic dental injuries may include pulpal necrosis, pulpal obliteration, and root resorption.

How Can Dental Trauma Be Prevented?

Although people can not avoid all incidents that may result in traumatic dental injuries, certain precautions may help them to protect their teeth. People may prevent dental trauma resulting from falls by taking steps to avoid falling, such as cleaning up clutter, wearing non-slip shoes, having adequate lighting, and using sturdy step ladders. Wearing a seatbelt any time they drive or ride along in a vehicle may help protect people from all types of serious injuries, including dental trauma, in the event of a motor vehicle accident. 

Since many traumatic dental injuries occur while playing sports, wearing mouth guards, face cages, and helmets may aid in safeguarding people’s teeth. Using the appropriate personal protective equipment in the workplace, as well as wearables whenever available, may help prevent the types of occupational accidents that result in dental trauma. Electronic devices worn on the body by workers, wearables track employee behaviors that increase the risk of occupational injuries, and some alert employees of potential hazards.