Seeing your child’s smile is one of the most delightful parts of being a parent. But if your little one injures a tooth, you may worry that it could impact their smile permanently.
Fortunately, toddlers have primary teeth — meaning their teeth are still baby teeth and will eventually fall out to make room for their secondary or adult teeth.
Here’s what you need to know if your child chips or loses a baby tooth, what other issues you may notice, and if you should see a dentist.
Think about all the new and exciting things your toddler is doing. They’re starting to walk, run, jump, and move their body in all sorts of ways.
With all this movement and play comes the potential for slips, trips, and falls. Baby teeth are small and relatively fragile. If your toddler takes a spill and lands on their face, a tooth may easily get chipped in the process.
Experts estimate that up to
This means that if your toddler chips a tooth, you aren’t a bad parent. Phew! These things happen, and you’ll probably learn that several of your parent friends have dealt with similar situations with their own children.
Before doing anything else, take a deep breath and remain calm.
A chipped tooth in a toddler isn’t necessarily a reason for alarm. Staying calm will also help your child relax and take the energy of the event down a notch.
Next, take note of whether your child is having difficulty swallowing or breathing. This can be a sign that they swallowed a tooth fragment or that it’s compromising their ability to breathe.
If you suspect this might be the case — or your child has any other concerning symptoms — head to the emergency room as soon as possible.
If there seems to be no danger, try looking around to see if you can locate the tooth fragment. Larger pieces of tooth may be easy to find. In some cases, though, your child’s tooth may break into small pieces, making it difficult to locate.
If you can find the fragment, great! Put it in a clean container, ideally soaking in milk or saliva. If you can’t find the pieces, that’s OK too.
Once your little one recovers from whatever accident caused the chipped tooth, you may notice several symptoms in and around the affected area.
For example, if your toddler broke a sizable piece of tooth, the nerve may be exposed, making the tooth very sensitive to temperature, food, etc.
Other things that may occur include:
- Blood coming from the tooth or gums. You can address this by applying wet gauze and pressure to the area to stop the bleeding.
- Pain at the injury site. If your child complains of pain, try giving them an over-the-counter pain reliever. You can call your pediatrician for the appropriate dosage information if you’re unsure of what kind or how much to give.
- Swelling in and around the mouth. If you notice your child’s face or mouth is swollen, you can apply a cold compress to help lessen inflammation. You can also use a cold compress to help with swelling if your child bit their tongue or lip.
- Discoloration of the tooth. Your tot’s tooth may turn different colors either temporarily or permanently. Colors you might see include gray, black, brown, or red. In
most cases, this is like a bruise to the skin and will fade with time. If it doesn’t go away, you should see a dentist.
- Difficulty eating. You should avoid giving your child hard foods until you have the tooth looked at by a dentist. Eating hard foods may put further stress on the tooth and lead to more breaking.
- Complications. If the tooth goes untreated, your child may complain of symptoms like fever, face pain, trouble eating, continued bleeding, swelling, or difficulty sleeping. These signs may mean your little one has developed a tooth abscess (infection). An abscess requires medical attention so the infection doesn’t spread to other parts of the body.
A chipped tooth that’s sensitive or painful is generally considered in need of urgent dental treatment. That means that even if your child seems fine or even if the fragment lost is small, it’s still a good idea to check in with a pediatric dentist sooner rather than later — especially if the tooth hurts.
Even a small chip can present problems down the line.
There are different layers of the tooth — the outer enamel, the inner dentin, and the pulp at the root. Damage to the enamel may not be an issue. If the other layers are affected, though, it could lead to an abscess or other dental problems.
A dentist can help identify which layer (or layers) are affected and come up with a treatment plan as necessary.
If your child has never seen a dentist before, consider calling your own dentist to get a referral to one who works with children (a pediatric dentist). Regardless of the injury, the American Dental Association recommends that children visit the dentist by the time they turn 1 year old.
Primary or baby teeth eventually fall out to make room for secondary or adult teeth. That’s why your toddler’s chipped tooth isn’t necessarily such a big deal — it will be replaced with a permanent tooth in time.
That said, your toddler’s dentist will assess the situation and act accordingly.
Small chips may not require any special treatment. Your toddler’s dentist will confirm whether or not the damage is superficial. If there’s no danger of infection or other issues, the tooth may be left alone to eventually fall out with the other baby teeth.
If the chipped tooth is at risk of infection, another treatment option includes performing a cavity filling. In this procedure, your dentist will apply a filling material that matches the color of the tooth and mold it to a tooth-like shape.
A crown is another restoration possibility. It’s a cap that’s placed over part of the old tooth to protect and function as a regular tooth.
Large chips or breaks may be treated by extraction. This means your child’s dentist will remove the tooth and likely use a space maintainer (spacer). A spacer ensures that permanent teeth don’t come into the wrong spot or crowd the mouth.
The same goes for if your child’s baby tooth has completely fallen out on its own. Your dentist may just leave it out and use a space maintainer.
Chipped teeth can’t always be prevented in the active life of a toddler. What you can do, however, is make your little one’s dental hygiene a priority.
Along with avoiding obvious activities that may lead to chips and breaks, be sure to brush your toddler’s teeth twice a day, floss, and keep up with regular dental appointments.
If your toddler does chip a tooth, your dentist will evaluate the damage, your child’s discomfort level, and the risk of infection before choosing the best course of treatment.