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Dental Trauma

Dentist talking to woman in exam chair, dental assistant in background.
See a dentist right away, even for a minor injury.

Injury (trauma) to the teeth or mouth can happen from an accident or sports injury. Dental trauma may not always seem serious. But even minor injuries can cause infection or other problems. The key to saving your smile is getting help right away.

When to go to the emergency room (ER)

Speed is crucial when it comes to most tooth trauma. The faster you're treated, the better the chances your tooth or teeth can be saved. Go to your dentist or the ER at once if:

  • You break one or more teeth.

  • You have one or more teeth knocked out. Put the tooth in a glass of cold milk and bring it with you.

  • A cut on your lip or tongue won't stop bleeding.

  • Your teeth don't fit together correctly when you bite down after an injury.

What to do if your tooth is knocked out

If a permanent tooth is knocked out:

  • Handle the tooth by the top, not the roots.

  • Keep the tooth in a glass of milk or place it in a tooth preservation product that has an ADA Seal of Acceptance. This keeps the tooth from drying out.

  • Get medical help right away.

What to expect in the ER

Your injury will be examined. If you've lost a tooth, a dentist may be able to replant it. For the best results, this is done within an hour after your injury. In some cases, a broken tooth can also be repaired. Cuts and scrapes (abrasions) may be treated with cold packs and dressings. An X-ray will likely be taken to check on the extent of the damage and rule out fracture of the roots of your teeth.

When to call your healthcare provider

Once you're home, call your dentist right away if you:

  • Have a fever of  100.4° F ( 38°C) or higher, or as directed by your dentist

  • Have drainage from around a repaired tooth

  • Have pain that gets worse after 24 hours

  • Have continued bleeding

Online Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Godsey
Online Medical Reviewer: Michael Kapner MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2019
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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