About a third of all toddlers experience some of tooth-related trauma, usually between 18 and 40 months. Here's what to do when those pearly whites take a knock.
TKO. If a baby tooth is knocked out completely, chances are the dentist won't be able to re-implant it. Permanent teeth, on the other hand, can be re-implanted within up to two hours after being injured.
What to do. In all missing-teeth cases, apply firm, constant pressure to the hole. If bleeding doesn't stop after 10 minutes, see the dentist or go to the emergency room. Once the bleeding hascstopped, give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve the pain.
Partial break. If the tooth is partly out of the gum or there's a break line running up the tooth, or a glob of reddish flesh (the dental pulp) sticking out, see the dentist right away. If the tooth has just shifted a bit, your child will probably push the tooth back into place with his tongue. If a tooth has been pushed up into the gum (intruded) but isn't broken off or bleeding, wait for a next-day visit to the dentist.
Extraction action. After any dental trauma, baby teeth are likely to turn color over a period of several weeks. This means that the inside of the tooth has died and may have to be pulled.
Gum issues. If your child has cut or bruised his gums or lips, apply cold pressure with a small bag of ice or a frozen fruit bar. If the cut is larger than 1/4 inch or goes across the lip border, take your little one to see his healthcare provider. The provider can make sure everything will heal properly. Don't panic if your child cuts his tongue and you see a lot of blood. The tongue has a good blood supply, and even though it puts on quite a show, it usually heals itself.
Away with decay. Even though they're not permanent, injured baby teeth still need attention. Trauma to them can harm the permanent teeth developing underneath the gum, possibly delaying the time they come in.
TIP: It's a good idea to make a dental appointment before your baby is really off and running. Pediatricians and dentists recommend that the first visit take place by his first birthday.