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What is Dental Trauma?

Article Details
  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 20 July 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Essentially, dental trauma is any injury to the area within or around the mouth. This may include the teeth, jaw, gums, tongue, palate, cheeks, and lips, and can involve bruising, cuts, bleeding, swelling, and, in the case of the teeth, breakage and loss. There are many possible causes of dental trauma, although falls, sports accidents, and automobile collisions are perhaps the most common culprits. A basic understanding of dental trauma can be crucial to minimizing long-term damage to the mouth.

For many people, the term dental trauma conjures up images of broken or lost teeth. Indeed, damage to the teeth is one of the most common forms of trauma in the mouth area. Tooth injuries can vary widely in severity, from small chips in the exposed portion of the tooth, to cracking that extends up into a tooth’s root, to partial or full loss of one or more teeth. Some tooth injuries can occur suddenly, such as may happen during a fall, while others may represent the culmination of a long period of decay that has weakened the tooth’s structure.

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Knowing how to respond to tooth trauma can help reduce long-term damage. Partial or full tooth loss should be attended to immediately, as teeth begin to die shortly after they have been broken or knocked out of their sockets. The lost tooth should be located, rinsed gently in tap water, and either placed back in its socket, held in the cheek, or submerged in a glass of milk or saline solution. It should be brought as quickly as possible to the dentist’s office or the emergency room for reattachment.

Less severe dental trauma involving the teeth may not require emergency treatment. Nevertheless, those whose teeth have sustained minor damage should consult their dentist as soon as possible after the injury occurred. Left untreated, small cracks or chips can grow, making the pulp of the affected tooth susceptible to infection.

In addition to tooth damage, dental trauma may also refer to injuries such as scrapes, cuts, bruising, or breakage of the cheeks, tongue, gums, lips, jaw, and palate. As with tooth injuries, dental trauma to these areas can vary widely in seriousness. Minor trauma may heal with little or no treatment. On the other hand, trauma which causes unstoppable or excessive bleeding, severe swelling or bruising, or extreme pain needs immediate medical attention. Those experiencing such symptoms should proceed to their local emergency room for treatment.

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