What to Do If a Child Breaks a Tooth


Guest blogger, Dr. Santiago Surillo

Injuries to the mouth are sometimes inevitable with children, so what should you do if your child chips or breaks a tooth? 

At some point, you may experience an injury to one of your child’s teeth. A hard fall, an injury while playing a sport, or crunching down on a piece of hard candy or ice can lead to chipped or broken teeth. Do you know what you should do if this happens?

“If a tooth is fractured or broken, whether it is a permanent tooth or a baby tooth, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your dentist right away,” says San Diego orthodontist and pediatric dentist Dr. Santiago Surillo. “Many parents mistakenly believe that if an injury occurs to a baby tooth, they can ignore it since the tooth will fall out eventually anyway. But, that is just not the case – your child’s baby teeth serve an important role and should be repaired just as a permanent tooth would be.”

Once a tooth has been chipped, cracked or broken, it leaves a space where bacteria can enter. Once bacteria enters into the crack, it can travel to the pulp or nerve of the tooth, causing pain and infection, and can lead to the need for a root canal.

If your child has broken a tooth, follow these steps:

  1. Schedule an appointment with your dentist right away so the dentist can assess the damage and repair the tooth before more damage occurs.
  2. Rinse your child’s mouth with water to clean the area, and inspect the mouth to be sure there are no pieces of tooth stuck in the gums, lips or tongue.
  3. If an injury to the mouth occurred, place a cold compress on the face to reduce swelling.
  4. If you can find the piece of broken tooth, place it in a glass of milk to preserve it and bring it with you to the dentist’s office. In some cases, the broken piece can simply be reattached.

If a baby tooth is knocked out completely, don’t attempt to place the tooth back in your child’s mouth. Doing so could cause damage to the permanent teeth still in the gum behind it. Your dentist will be able to determine the proper steps to take to ensure there is no damage to the permanent tooth and help manage any pain and prevent infection from setting in.

If a permanent tooth is knocked out, avoid touching the root of the tooth. Gently rinse it in cold water, and place it back in the tooth socket. Have your child bite down gently on clean gauze and seek out dental care immediately. A permanent tooth has the best chance to survive after being knocked out if it is replanted right away.

If your child has a chip or crack in a tooth, your pediatric dentist will be able to determine the best way to properly treat it. If it is a baby tooth that is chipped, it may simply need to be smoothed and polished. If a front tooth is chipped, the dentist can smooth it and place a tooth-colored filling in the chipped area.

If a tooth has been broken completely, it may require either a filling or a crown to properly repair it. If more than half of the tooth is broken, it may expose the nerve, which will require immediate attention.

“The most important thing to do if your child damages a tooth is to schedule an appointment with the dentist as soon as possible,” says Dr. Surillo. “We can work to save as much of your child’s tooth as possible, and hopefully prevent the need for more extensive dental work. Waiting too long to repair a damaged tooth can lead to the need for a root canal, a crown when a filling may have been adequate, or even the need to pull the tooth.”

Dr-Santiago-SurilloAbout Dr. Santiago Surillo

San Diego Kids Dentist is Dr. Santiago Surillo’s website where you can find more information about children’s dentistry or orthodontics.

Dr. Surillo is a dual-trained specialist with certifications in both orthodontics and pediatric dentistry, giving him a unique advantage when treating children. He is a second-generation dentist, and is one of only a handful of dual-trained specialists in the area. Dr. Surillo has more than 20 years of experience treating children of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers.

Dr. Surillo is dedicated to achieving the best in pediatric dentistry and orthodontics, and his Master’s Thesis on Skeletal Jaw Classifications helped to redefine the modern diagnosis and treatment planning in children. His training and expertise in the treatment of dento-facial orthopedics helps him offer the best treatment available to both his pediatric dentistry and orthodontics patients.

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