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Dental injury

3-minute read

The most common causes of dental injuries include falling over, being hit in the face or having some kind of accident while playing sport. It is also possible to injure or break a tooth by eating something hard.

An injury to your mouth may cause bleeding or swelling. It may also cause:

  • your tooth to come loose
  • your tooth to crack or break
  • your tooth to be knocked out
  • damage to your tooth’s roots.

Baby or milk teeth

  • If one of your child’s first teeth has been knocked out (a 'baby tooth'), the dentist won’t try to put it back in. Instead they will leave the space until a new, permanent tooth grows.
  • If one of your child’s adult teeth has been knocked out, follow the advice for adult teeth below.
  • If your child is in pain, get advice from your pharmacist or doctor on pain relief medicines they can take.

Adult teeth

  • If an adult tooth has been knocked out, don't throw it away.
  • Call a dentist urgently and ask for an emergency appointment (ideally within 30 minutes)
  • Handle the tooth very carefully – it is best to hold it by the crown or white part of the tooth. Don't touch the root.
  • Don't scrub the tooth at all or rinse it with water. If the tooth has dirt on it, gently rinse it in milk. If milk is not available use saliva or a sterile saline solution (available from pharmacies).
  • If you are able to, push the tooth back into the socket it came from. Do this gently until you hear a click or the tooth is level with the other teeth. Then bite down gently on a clean cloth while travelling to the dentist for further assessment.
  • If it's not possible to put your tooth back in, place it in contact lens saline solution or milk immediately and go to the dentist, taking your tooth with you.
  • If milk or sterile saline solution are not available, put the tooth very carefully in your mouth between your cheek and gum and go to the dentist. Be very careful not to swallow your tooth.
  • You can also use plastic wrap to protect the tooth. Spit some saliva into the plastic before wrapping the tooth.
  • Do not place your tooth in water as this can damage the tooth’s delicate cells.
  • If parts of your tooth have broken off, these should be placed in milk or a sterile saline solution and taken to your dentist.
  • If you have swelling, try using a cold compress against the side of your face to relieve pain and reduce the swelling. Wrap an ice pack in a cloth before placing it against your skin.

If you are bleeding after your dental injury:

  • Apply pressure over the area with a pad made from a clean, rolled-up, cotton handkerchief (or other clean cloth), which has been slightly dampened with clean water.
  • Keep this pad in place for 15 minutes without removing it. Check to see if the bleeding has stopped. If not, repeat the process and keep the pad in place until you are seen by a healthcare professional.
  • If you are in pain, get advice on pain relief medicines you can take.

Dental injury prevention

Some activities are more likely than others to lead to accidents that cause dental injury. It’s best to wear a fitted mouthguard (one that’s custom-made by your dentist) to protect your teeth when doing activities such as:

  • off-road bike riding
  • skateboarding
  • rock climbing
  • white-water rafting
  • trampolining
  • boxing
  • football – soccer, rugby, league or Australian Rules
  • basketball
  • squash
  • hockey.

Mouthguards that show signs of wear or damage need to be replaced.

Ask your dentist for advice about oral protection for yourself or your child.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2017

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