These teeth injuries can occur in a wobbly toddler after a hard fall, a sporty preschooler who gets knocked in the mouth by a ball, or a curious youngster who crunches on hard candy. Sleeping children who aggressively grind their teeth, and even cavities that weaken the teeth, can also lead to chips or fractures.
Your child’s injury may be to a baby tooth or a permanent (adult) tooth. The tooth can be fractured (broken or cracked) or chipped, and sometimes it may not even hurt. If a large piece of tooth breaks off, however, it will probably cause pain, and your child’s tongue may get cut against the sharp, jagged surface. If the break extends into the tooth’s pulp, where the nerves and blood vessels lie, that tooth becomes much more sensitive to hot and cold liquids and food.
Your child’s dentist can recommend the best method of treatment for a chipped or broken tooth. Treatment can depend on the size and location of the break or crack and sometimes, in the case of very small cracks, no treatment is required.
For a chipped baby tooth, your dentist might leave it alone or simply smooth and polish it. If one of the front teeth gets chipped, the dentist can smooth the jagged edge and insert tooth-colored filling. A permanent tooth may require filling material to stop the damage from getting worse and to help the tooth feel better.
A broken tooth usually involves the whole tooth down to the nerve. Typically, the break can be fixed with a filling to repair the lost tooth structure, but sometimes a crown is required.
What should I do if my child has a chipped tooth?
- Inspect your child’s mouth to ensure that no pieces of tooth are stuck in the gums, tongue, or lips. Rinse the mouth with water to clean the area.
- If the affected area is bleeding, fold a clean piece of wet gauze on top of the area and tell your child to bite down on it, or simply hold it in place. Apply this pressure for about 10 minutes, or until the bleeding stops.
- Keep a cold cloth on the area to reduce swelling. Your child can also suck on a popsicle to help with the pain and keep the swelling down.
- If possible, collect the chipped pieces and keep them moist in a cup of milk or saliva. In some cases, the dentist can reattach the tooth fragments with special glue.
- Contact your pediatric dentist quickly. If more than half the tooth is broken, the nerve may be exposed and may require immediate attention.
- If necessary, give your child an age-appropriate, over-the-counter pain reliever.
In the case of any tooth injury, contact your dentist right away. If you act fast, you can help to save your child’s tooth and any future potential for extensive dental work.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, February 2019
- Chipped or broken teeth are quite common in kids and can happen easily.
- Your child’s dentist can recommend the best method of treatment, depending on the size and location of the chip or break.
- For a broken tooth, contact your pediatric dentist immediately, especially if more than half the tooth is broken.