What To Do When Your Child Chips A Tooth

As safe as you try to keep your children, there are certain injuries and mishaps that are very difficult to prevent. Any child can slip and fall or suddenly decide to jump off of playground equipment or out of a tree. If your little one's fall results in a chipped tooth, it's important to stay calm so you can assess the damage and decide what to do next. Usually, a chipped tooth is not a dental emergency. Read on to find out when it is an urgent problem and what you can do about the chip.

Determine If Your Child Is in Pain

If your young child fell and chipped a tooth, chances are good that he or she will be crying. Don't automatically assume that the tooth is causing pain, however; try to calm your child down so you can better see what the problem is. A small chip often will not cause pain in the tooth itself, but a sharp edge can cut the lip or tongue. If either the tooth or a cut caused by the tooth is causing discomfort, you'll need to seek dental care right away. In this case, call your dental office for an emergency appointment.

Talk to the Pediatric Dentist About Treatment Options

For chipped baby teeth, there are a few options for treatment. Your dentist will talk to you about the best course of action. The correct treatment will depend on how bad the chip is, how old your child is and how long the tooth is likely to stay in his or her mouth. Some options include:

  • Smoothing out the rough edge. If the chip is small, the only discomfort will likely be from your child's lip rubbing on the sharp edge. In this case, the dentist can just smooth it out to eliminate the problem.
  • Bonding. A larger chip might require bonding to treat any resulting sensitivity and to make the tooth look uninjured. This is a fairly non-invasive procedure, and your child might not even need any local anesthetic. The dentist will apply a tooth-colored bonding material (similar to what is used in composite fillings) to build up the tooth to its natural shape.
  • Extraction. A large break might be causing your child a lot of pain. Sometimes, a filling can be placed, but if the break is large, extraction is often necessary. This is usually done with local anesthetic. If there is a concern about the permanent tooth underneath shifting, a spacer might be needed to save room for the adult tooth to grow in later. You might be referred to a specialist such as an oral surgeon or an orthodontist if the treatment is expected to be complicated.

What If It's an Adult Tooth?

If an older child chips a tooth, it might be one of his or her permanent teeth. In this case, treatment options might range from smoothing it out or bonding to having root canal and a crown or veneer placed. It depends on how extensive the damage is and where the tooth is in your child's mouth. Front teeth will need a more aesthetically pleasing treatment than a slightly chipped molar, for example.

Once the tooth is treated, talk to your child about ways to prevent another chip in the future. A mouth guard might be necessary if your child plays certain sports. Daredevils might need to be curtailed a bit if they tend to jump out of trees or climb too high on play equipment, resulting in falls. Your pediatric dentist can talk to your child about ways to keep his or her teeth safe now and in the future.