TRAUMATIC DENTAL INJURIES DON’T HAVE TO RUIN BEAUTIFUL SMILES, DENTAL SPECIALISTS SAY
Everyone, it seems, is on a quest for the perfect, winning smile, especially since improvements in health, nutrition and dental practices are allowing people to keep their natural teeth longer.
But traumatic dental injuries, such as fractured and cracked teeth, can leave patients frowning if they’re left untreated or not treated soon enough.
Endodontists are dental specialists who diagnose and treat oral and facial pain, and specialize in root canals and any treatment necessary to the tooth’s soft inner tissues, known as pulp.
The long-term prognosis for saving traumatized teeth depends on the type of injury and how soon it’s treated. The most common dental traumas are fractures to the front teeth, typically caused by falls, sports activities, fights, and accidents (i.e.) automobiles, motorcycles or bicycles. Left untreated, they can affect the tooth’s pulp, causing irritation, and potentially requiring a root canal treatment. However, most fractures can be repaired with a simple filling, crown or cap.
Children between 7 and 12 are most likely to incur traumatic dental injuries, and are those for whom prompt treatment is essential because their teeth are still developing. Injuries can affect the tooth’s ability to develop fully and last a lifetime. However, a child’s tooth likewise has greater potential for recovery than does an adult’s.
Another common trauma is the tooth that has been knocked out, known as an avulsed tooth. To save it, it’s crucial to know what action to take, and to do so fast. First, attempt to reposition the tooth back in its socket, handling the tooth by its crown (chewing surface) only. If it cannot be repositioned, it can temporarily be placed in milk (or water with a pinch of salt if milk is not available) until the patient can promptly get to an endodontists or dentist – preferably within a half-hour to an hour.
There is a good chance of acceptance and recovery of the avulsed tooth if it can be treated quickly. Prompt treatment will reduce the likelihood of resorption, or when the surrounding bone begins to reject the hard tooth structure. With prompt action, the replanted tooth can last up to 20 years. Promising new technologies are currently being developed to reduce resorption and help save avulsed teeth.
Some injuries – typically a fall – can cause a tooth to be pushed into its socket and thus into the bone. This is a very serious trauma: if the tooth is not repositioned, it can fuse into the bone (called ankylosis) and stop a tooth’s development, especially in young children. In children under age 7, the dentist or endodontist may wait to see if the tooth re-erupts on its own. The tooth will be physically repositioned for older children and adults.
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