Dental Emergency at School, Now What?

Your child was involved in a playground accident and a tooth was knocked out. Now what? Mahnaz Khan, D.D.S., shares what to do in a dental emergency.

What do I do if my child has a dental emergency at school?

Whether your child ran into something or someone in the playground, tripped and fell on his face, or got hit in the mouth with a ball, the scenarios are endless and the reaction is always the same as a parent: panic as you rush out the door.

School injuries are common. Here are a few tips to get you through the tough moments.

First, try not to panic too much as you approach your child. Oftentimes there is a lot of bleeding if the injury involves the mouth. The oral tissues are highly vascular, so profuse bleeding is common. If the school nurse has not done so already, place an ice pack on the injury and apply light gauze pressure to the site of injury. This will usually control the bleeding, and the ice will help with any swelling. If the injury involves the mouth or jaw, call your child’s dentist right away. You may want to call your dental office as you head to the school so that they are prepared to see your little one as soon as possible. Pediatric dentists are trained to handle these emergencies.

If there is general head trauma, and your child is complaining of headache, dizziness, or disorientation, take your child to the emergency room immediately to rule out a concussion.

If a permanent tooth has been knocked out of your child’s mouth do everything you can to locate the tooth. Try not to handle the tooth by the root. Make no attempt to clean the tooth if there is visible dirt or debris. Place the tooth in a cup of milk or a “tooth saver solution” if the school nurse has it. The most ideal scenario is to place the tooth back in the socket if your child allows, but we often find that the parent and child are too nervous to do so, and that is okay. Take your child and the tooth to your dentist as soon as possible. Time really is important in this case, the sooner the tooth is re-implanted and stabilized, the better the prognosis. If the tooth is a baby tooth, it will not be re-implanted; your child will just have an early tooth fairy visit. You still want to have your child examined, and take the baby tooth with you, if you have it. Your pediatric dentist will evaluate the other teeth for any signs of mobility or damage as well as evaluate the jaws and bite to rule out a fracture.

Lastly, try to stay calm. Your child will likely be extremely nervous and upset. If she sees fear and terror in your eyes it will only heighten her anxiety. Assure your child everything will be okay, that dental trauma is common, and “your dentist will take good, gentle care of you”! And don’t forget to commend her (and yourself) for being brave in a scary situation.


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