The enamel of our teeth is stronger than even our bones, it’s almost rock-like in fact. This serves us well in part, because unlike our bones which are protected by muscles, and skin, our teeth are out on display and put into direct contact with crunchy, chewy foods day in and day out. Also in contrast to our bones, our teeth cannot repair themselves. Although they are incredibly strong and damage resistant, our teeth can break, or chip.
How Does a Chipped or Broken Tooth Occur?
- When we use our teeth as tools – Unfortunately, people use their teeth to open objects, packages, bottles etc.
- Fall down – A fall can cause the jaw to snap shut harshly or to hit our jaw on some other object thereby causing the damage.
- Blows to the face such as from fights, sports, bicycle, or car accidents.
- Chewing ice or other especially tough foods could also cause chipping.
- Bruxism is another potential cause that is grinding and/or clenching your teeth in your sleep, or unconsciously when awake.
Reason number one is why every dentist will tell you that you should never use your teeth to open something. Even an object as harmless-seeming as plastic packaging.
Reasons number two and three are why we strongly advocate the use of mouthguards for kids when they go biking or play any sport, even if that sport isn’t considered a contact sport.
Reason number four is a little trickier, but we encourage you to avoid hard candies for your kids, and explain to your kids early on that chewing ice is harmful to their teeth before it can develop into a habit that is challenging to break.
Reason number five can be alleviated by the use of a mouth guard at night. For more information about mouthguards, check out our in-depth post on the topic titled, “Why Your Kids Should Use a Mouth Guard“.
Regardless of the reason, if your child chips or breaks a tooth you should call us immediately for a dental emergency appointment. We have four office locations in around Salt Lake City, and our pediatric dentists and hygienists are here to help.
What Can a Pediatric Dentist Do for a Chipped or Broken Tooth?
So, we’ve established that a broken or chipped tooth can’t repair itself, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. We may recommend a bonding repair method, veneers, dental crowns, or a dental filling. The options depend on the severity of the chip or break, and the location of the damaged tooth. You might think having a chipped front tooth is the worst due to the fact that it’s impossible to hide. Nevertheless, a broken or chipped molar is often incredibly painful and more serious for the reason that your molars are vital to the chewing of your food.
More Information About the Repair Options
Bonding is exceedingly common for smaller chips or breaks. The dentist roughs up the area around the damage a bit and next, molds and a bond composite over the damaged spot. This bond composite is a color similar to that of the actual tooth so as to not be obvious. This repair method can last approximately ten years. In this process of restoration, we might be able to use the piece that broke off.
Veneers are a more expensive repair option and often are chosen because of their cosmetic appeal. Veneers are a porcelain cover for the outer face of the tooth. They can be applied to the nearby teeth as well to create a blended cosmetically appealing look. This is more typical in cases when a front tooth has been chipped.
We may recommend a dental crown when the chip or break is large. A dental crown is a two-step process. We start by doing a mold and then fitting a temporary crown, this will protect the vulnerable inner part of the tooth. The mold is then sent to a lab for a long-term crown to be created. At the second appointment, we remove the temporary crown and attach and seal the lab crown, which will also match the tooth in color. It’s important to note that a temporary crown will not be as strong as the lab-created. Avoid crunchy, chewy foods in the area of that tooth if possible.
What If You Have the Piece of Tooth that Broke Off?
Remember, don’t wait to call the dentist. You should call us for an emergency appointment, immediately. If you have a piece of the tooth, here is how to take care of it until you can get in to see us:
- 1. Submerge the piece of tooth in a container with milk, do not rinse it first with water.
- Rinse your child’s mouth out with warm water.
- Give them an ice pack for their jaw around the area to help with the pain.
- Come in to see us, and don’t forget to bring the chip in the milk container.
What If the Whole Tooth Is Knocked Out?
Call us immediately for an emergency dental appointment! Do not touch the root part of the tooth, pick it up by the crown (the part that sits above the gum line) and submerge it in a container with milk.
If the tooth that was knocked out is a permanent tooth but is whole and not chipped or broken, you can, depending on your child’s emotional state, place the tooth back into the vacated socket. That should only be done if you can manage it without touching the root if it won’t upset your child, and you are sure the tooth is not broken or chipped.
The longer a permanent tooth is outside of the socket the less likely it is to re-embed into the gum. If the thought of reinserting the tooth on your own is too overwhelming, don’t feel guilty. The key is to get it submerged quickly into milk so that it doesn’t have the chance to dry out before you can get in to the dentist’s office and we’ll take care of the rest.
Reminder of Caution
If your child has already chipped or broken a tooth once, no matter how skilled the restoration work is, that tooth is at a higher risk of chipping or breaking again. Take extra care to utilize mouth guards at night in case of bruxism, and during sports activities. Moreover, please, please, please, don’t crunch ice or use teeth to open packages, bottles, etc.
We’re in the thick of a beautiful but cold Utah winter, and sometimes this time of year brings winter tooth pain. While you might have noticed that one of your kids has a sensitivity to cold slushies or ice cream in the summer months, winter tooth pain can hit even if you’re avoiding ice-cold treats.
Why #1: High Altitude
If your family has been hitting the slopes this winter season and you’ve had complaints of tooth pain while skiing or snowboarding, then the high altitude may be the culprit. When your body reaches high altitudes, the atmospheric pressure can have effects on our bodies, including our teeth. This type of tooth pain is called barodontalgia, or “tooth squeeze”.
Barodontalgia is typically a symptom of an underlying issue that is often dental related (although not exclusively). Possible dental underlying conditions to the pain of tooth squeeze include:
- damaged filling
- cracked tooth
- enamel erosion
- impacted teeth
- pulp necrosis
To-Dos for Altitude Tooth Pain
If your kids’ winter tooth pain comes on when you hit the slopes, you’ll need to keep them away from hot beverages as well as cold beverages. Extreme temperatures will only exacerbate the pain. Often the pain will ease once a more normal elevation is reached, so you might have to stay off the mountain for a while.\
Give us a call so we can set up an appointment to see your child. We’ll want to rule out the possibilities and isolate the problem so that we can get your kid back to being on the slopes pain-free with your family.
Why #2: Dental Trauma
Sledding, tubing, skiing, and snowboarding are all great ways to spend the winter weekends. However, these sports can also result in dental injuries such as a cracked or chipped tooth that will result in winter tooth pain.
To-Dos for Dental Trauma
If your child gets a chipped or cracked tooth in a sports accident, give us a call right away. Place the tooth fragment (if you can find it) in a container with milk until you can get in to see us. For more information read our in-depth post, “My Child Chipped a Tooth: What Should I Do?”
Why #3: Tooth Sensitivity
Tooth sensitivity to cold beverages and treats may be annoying or painful in the warm months, but it can be aggravated in the winter months when your teeth are exposed to cold air. Tooth sensitivity is often painful but, as is the often case with barodontalgia, it is typically a symptom of another issue: enamel erosion or root exposure.
The crown of your tooth is covered by a protective layer of enamel. The enamel is the pearly-white part that you see when you smile, and while it is a protector, it can be weakened and eroded. Causes of enamel erosion include:
- teeth grinding
- excessive teeth whitening
- acid reflux disease
- excessive acidic content in your diet
- bulimia (stomach acid from frequent vomiting)
- overzealous teeth brushing technique
What you may be surprised to learn is that the root of your tooth does not have enamel. Instead, it is covered by cementum which is softer than enamel and serves as connective tissue to keep the tooth rooted in your jaw. The root of your tooth simply does not have the same protection in place that the crown of your tooth and this is why an exposed root is painful. Causes of root exposure include:
- aggressive teeth brushing
- use of a hard bristle toothbrush
- receding gums
- gingivitis (gum disease)
- dental trauma
- dry mouth
To-Dos for Tooth Sensitivity
- For tooth sensitivity, it’s important to get your kids in to see their pediatric dentist to identify the cause and begin the appropriate dental treatment. Some treatments are mild, while others may be more involved.
- We may recommend a special desensitizing toothpaste to help with the pain while we determine the cause and appropriate treatment.
- We may do fluoride treatments in the office or prescribe fluoride treatments at home. Fluoride treatments will help to strengthen the tooth’s enamel.
- We may do a bonding. Bonding in this instance is when we apply our composite resin over an exposed root area.
- We may recommend a root canal. We perform root canals in our office when necessary. They treat the pulp of the tooth and are one of the most successful treatments for addressing tooth sensitivity.
- We may refer your child for a surgical gum graft. This procedure is done when the root is exposed because gum tissue has been lost in some way.
There are things that you as the parent can do in this situation as well. If your kids are 12 years or older, consider purchasing Sensodyne toothpaste (ADA approved) to help with the pain of sensitivity. Avoid extreme temperature beverages hot or cold, but also consider eliminating sodas and high sugar juices from their daily intake.
Next, take a look at your kid’s toothbrush. Is it a soft bristle brush? If not, replace it with a soft one. Take note of your child’s brushing technique, are they a hard or aggressive brusher? Proper teeth brushing technique should look like this:
Prevention of Reoccurrence of Tooth Sensitivity
- Proper brushing technique, two times a day for two minutes. Regular cleaning of the teeth will help keep the enamel strong.
- Use mouth guards for any sports activities, or if your child grinds their teeth at night. Read our in-depth post, “Why Your Kids Should Use a Mouth Guard“.
- Eliminate or slide back to a moderate amount of carbonated drinks and citrus fruits in their diet.
- Finish off a snack or a meal with a drink of water to rinse out any acids or citrus from your teeth.
We know that tooth sensitivity can be painful and frustrating for kids. Don’t wait to see if it simply goes away over time. Give us a call to schedule an appointment so that we can root out (pun intended) the cause of your child’s winter tooth pain and move forward with making it better!
The month of April is a time of spring blossoms, of new life after the harsh cold has passed, sports activities taking us outside, and biannual dental checkups. That’s right, your kids (and you!) should be having dental checkups two times per year. April is a great month to do it, because your sports calendars and vacation trips haven’t filled up the calendar yet, and our four locations are offering $25 gift cards for our patients when they have a dental appointment through the end of April.
April is National Facial Protection Month
We’ve shared our stance on the importance of mouth guards and facial protection for your kids and teens when they’re engaging in sports activities, and now is a perfect time to re-iterate its value.
Mouth injuries and head injuries are rather common in the spring months due to the uptick in outdoor sports activities and we’d prefer (as would you as parents!) not to have to reset a knocked-out tooth or fix a broken or chipped tooth for your kid if it can be avoided.
Facts About Mouth Guards
- Over 20 million kids in the U.S. participate in sports every year.
- Approximately 36% of unintentional injuries to kids occur due to sports activities.
- Up to 20% of those injuries are maxillofacial.
- If your child plays soccer they are more likely to incur a dental injury than if they play football.
- Basketball is the leading sport in dental injuries.
- Athletes who wear mouthguards are 82%-93% less likely to have a dental injury.
It should be noted we aren’t indicating that soccer and basketball are dangerous sports to be avoided, the point is that unlike in football, emphasis on facial protection (mouth guards) isn’t made in these sports, in spite of the fact that dental injuries do occur. Football players wear pads and helmets, and also mouth guards are required. Basketball and soccer players wear uniforms and special shoes, and shin guards for soccer, so why not spend the money to also protect their teeth as well?
Mouth Guard Options for Your Athletes in the Family
If we’ve convinced you that mouthguards are a good idea for your family athletes this spring, hooray! You have basically, three options moving forward. If your budget is your primary concern, you can look for stock mouth guards or “boil & bite” mouth guards in just about any sporting goods store. Stock mouth guards are going to come in standard sizes, but a boil and bite is generally a step up in price that will allow a more modified fit. The best protection is a custom mouthguard, and although it will cost more, it will undoubtedly be the most comfortable and provide the best protection. Ask us about a custom mouthguard when your kids come in for their next checkup and we’ll help you work through your options to find a good fit (pun intended) for your budget and your family.
April is National Oral Cancer Awareness Month
Aside from the necessary benefits of routine dental checkups that serve as an important preventive measure to look for plaque, decay, and seek to maintain you and your child’s teeth in a state of cleanliness, routine dental checkups can serve as screenings for oral cancer detection as well.
Facts About Oral Cancer
- Over 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer every year and 450,000 globally.
- One death per hour can be attributed to oral cancer in the United States.
- The death rate can be attributed due to the fact it is often diagnosed late in its progression.
- A person who survives the first diagnosis of oral cancer is 20 times more likely to develop second cancer.
- Approximately 90% of diagnosed oral cancers are squamous cell carcinomas.
- Previously, oral cancer was statistically more likely in men over 50 who drank and smoked tobacco. Unfortunately, it is occurring in the younger non-smoking generations as well due to the HPV16 virus.
Check Your Own Mouth and Your Kids’
The Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF) has created a public campaign for awareness encouraging civilians to “check their mouth” for signs and symptoms which include the following (cited directly from the OCF website):
“Signs and symptoms of oral cancer caused by tobacco usage and/or excessive alcohol usage may include one or more of the following:
- Any sore or ulceration that does not heal within 14 days.
- A red, white, or black discoloration of the soft tissues of the mouth.
- Any abnormality that bleeds easily when touched.
- A lump or hard spot in the tissue, usually the border of the tongue.
- Tissue raised above that which surrounds it; a growth.
- A sore under a denture, which even after adjustment of the denture, does not heal.
- A lump or thickening that develops in the mouth.
- A painless, firm, fixated lump felt on the outside of the neck, that has been there for at least two weeks.
- All these symptoms have the commonality of being persistent and not resolving.”
“Signs and symptoms of HPV-caused oropharyngeal cancer persist longer than two-three weeks and may include one or more of the following:
- Hoarseness or sore throat that does not resolve.
- A painless, firm, fixated lump felt on the outside of the neck, which has been there for at least two weeks.
- Constant coughing that does not resolve.
- Difficulty swallowing; a sensation that food is getting caught in your throat.
- An earache on one side (unilateral) that persists for more than a few days.
- All of these symptoms have the commonality of being persistent and not resolving.”
Organize Dental Checkups for Your Athletes This April
Through the end of this month, we’re offering $25 gift cards for each patient who comes in for a dental checkup at any of our four locations. Don’t let the month pass you by, we can answer questions or concerns about oral cancer and facial protection, and be sure your kids’ teeth are happy and healthy this spring.