Protecting kids’ teeth during summer months
Kids’ physical activity is often at its peak during the summer time when school is out and, for many, the accessibility of outdoor activities seems boundless. Whether it is biking in the neighborhood, jumping on the trampoline or playing baseball, it is the perfect time for kids to enjoy outside. Parents may also find themselves dealing with minor accidents that can happen with active kids like scrapes, bruises and bumps. While most parents and caregivers are pros at dealing with these common injuries, many may not know what to do for mouth injuries, like a chipped or knocked out tooth. The fact is that about 50 percent of kids experience some type of tooth injury during childhood, so it’s best to be prepared, especially because the moments just after a tooth injury can be traumatic.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) has some simple tips for parents and caregivers to help them deal with the most common tooth injuries.
If a baby tooth is knocked out:
- Don’t spend time looking for a baby tooth, as it cannot be placed back in the mouth because it could damage permanent teeth. Instead, rinse the mouth with water and apply a cold compress to reduce swelling. Make sure to spend time comforting the child. Losing a tooth is a psychological process as much as a physical one for kids.
If a permanent tooth is knocked out:
- Don’t scrub a permanent tooth with soap. Scrubbing the tooth, especially with soap, can damage cells on the root of the tooth necessary for it to reattach. Instead, rinse it gently in cool water.
- Replace the permanent tooth in the socket and hold it there with clean gauze or a wash cloth. If you can’t put the tooth back in the socket, place it in a clean container preferably with cold milk, or with your child’s saliva. Do not store the tooth in water.
- Take child to the pediatric dentist immediately or call the emergency line if it is after hours.
If a tooth is chipped:
- Contact your pediatric dentist immediately in order to prevent infection, save the tooth and reduce the need for extensive dental treatment.
- Take the fragment of the tooth with you to the pediatric dentist if you are able to find it. Even if the dentist is unable to repair the tooth with the missing piece, he or she will still be able to treat your child and in most cases will still be able to repair the tooth.
Of course, prevention is the best way to avoid dental injuries, and the AAPD recommends children wear mouthguards for sports like football, lacrosse, hockey, baseball, basketball, soccer, wrestling and gymnastics. Additionally, parents and caregivers may want to consider mouthguards for leisure activities like biking, roller blading and skateboarding – especially for beginners.
Soft plastic mouthguards will protect a child's teeth, as well as their lips, cheeks and gums, and may reduce the force that can cause concussions, neck injuries and jaw fractures. Most mouthguards are made to fit comfortably to the shape of the upper teeth. Pre-formed or boil-to-fit mouthguards can be purchased in sporting goods stores. Different types and brands vary in terms of comfort, protection and cost. Your pediatric dentist can also make customized mouthguards that tend to be more comfortable and effective at preventing injuries.
These tips are available in an easy to follow one-page guide that can be downloaded and printed at www.mychildrensteeth.org
Post this convenient guide in an accessible place in your home such as on the refrigerator, so the information is readily available to family, caregivers and babysitters.
Summer is also a great time to schedule bi-annual dental checkups for your kids, as well reinforce healthy dental hygiene habits. Visit mychildrensteeth.org for more tips and resources, including a pediatric dentist finder and a fun toolkit to encourage your child’s healthy dental habits.
Edward Moody, DDS, is president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and a practicing pediatric dentist in Morristown, Tennessee. The AAPD is the recognized authority on children’s oral health. As advocates for children’s oral health, the AAPD promotes evidence-based policies and clinical guidelines; educates and informs policymakers, parents and guardians, and other health care professionals; fosters research; and provides continuing professional education for pediatric dentists and general dentists who treat children. Founded in 1947, the AAPD is a not-for-profit professional membership association representing the specialty of pediatric dentistry. Its 8,800 members provide primary care and comprehensive dental specialty treatments for infants, children, adolescents and individuals with special health care