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Patient education: Mouth and dental injuries in adults (The Basics)

Patient education: Mouth and dental injuries in adults (The Basics)

What are mouth and dental injuries? — Mouth and dental injuries happen when the lips, tongue, throat, or teeth get hurt during an accident or a fight (figure 1). Teeth can break, fall out, become loose, and cause pain.

What causes mouth and dental injuries? — Common causes include:

Contact sports

Car or motorcycle accidents

Being hit in the face

Often, these injuries happen after an accident. If someone hurt you on purpose, tell your doctor or nurse. They can help you.

What should I do after a mouth or dental injury? — If the injury is minor, you can:

Press on the area with a clean cloth or gauze, if there is bleeding. Hold the pressure for 10 minutes.

Take pain medicine, such as ibuprofen (sample brand names: Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (sample brand name: Tylenol).

If you have a cut inside your mouth, it might help to eat soft foods as it heals. You can also often rinse your mouth with water to keep the area clean.

Should I see a doctor or nurse? — It depends. Small injuries often heal on their own. But in some cases, you will need to see a doctor or dentist.

You should get medical help right away if:

The injured area is still bleeding after 10 minutes, even with pressure on it.

You have trouble swallowing or breathing normally.

Something has pierced the back of your throat.

You feel confused or dizzy, have trouble with your balance or vision, have nausea or vomiting, or just don't feel right.

You should also call your doctor or dentist for advice if:

You are in a lot of pain or the area hurts when touched.

The injured area is bothered by heat or cold.

A tooth is broken, loose, or missing after the injury.

You have a large cut in your mouth or on your face.

Your jaw hurts when you open or close your mouth.

An object is stuck on your tongue, cheek, or roof of your mouth, or in your throat.

You have signs of infection, such as fever, redness, or pain that gets worse over time.

Will I need tests? — It depends. Your doctor or dentist will decide if you need tests based on your injury and symptoms. Often, all they need to do is examine you and ask how the injury happened. In some cases, they might need to do an X-ray or other imaging test to check for broken bones, tooth damage, or swallowed teeth.

How are tooth injuries treated? — It depends on where the injury is and how severe it is. You might not need any treatment.

If you do need treatment, it will depend on what the problem is:

If 1 of your teeth is loose, the dentist might push it back in place. To hold it there while it heals, they might attach it to the teeth next to it.

If 1 of your teeth breaks, the dentist might:

Put broken pieces back on (if you find any pieces, you can put them in tap water to keep them from drying out).

Fix the tooth with a material that looks like teeth.

If 1 of your teeth falls out, act fast. You should put the tooth back in its socket (the hole in the gums) as soon as possible. The tooth is most likely to survive if it goes back in within 15 minutes.

Some tips for putting a tooth back in its socket:

Hold it on the end that normally sticks out of your gums (do not touch the root).

Gently rinse the tooth with tap water (do not wipe or dry it).

Gently rinse the socket with tap water as well.

Put the tooth back in its socket.

Bite on a towel to hold the tooth in place.

Go to a dentist right away.

If you can't put the tooth back in the socket right away, you can store it in cold milk. If possible, it is even better to put the tooth in a special liquid for knocked-out teeth (sample brand names: ViaSpan, Hank's Balanced Salt Solution). Then, get the tooth in its socket and see a dentist as soon as possible.

Sometimes, a tooth that was knocked out will recover after it is put back in. Other times, the tooth does not survive. If this happens, your dentist can usually replace it with an implant (a fake tooth).

How are injuries to other parts of the mouth treated? — It depends on where the injury is, what kind of injury it is, and how bad it is. Cuts inside the mouth heal faster than cuts to other parts of the body, so you might not need any treatment for a small cut or injury.

If you do need treatment, it might involve:

Stitches to fix a cut on your tongue or lips – The doctor can give a shot of medicine to numb the area first. They can often use stitches that dissolve on their own without needing to be removed.

Antibiotics to prevent or treat some infections

A tetanus shot to prevent serious disease

Depending on your injury, you might also need to see a surgeon or other specialist. This might be the case if you have:

A large cut

An injury from an object piercing the back of your throat

A facial or jaw fracture

Nerve damage

More on this topic

Patient education: Mouth and dental injuries in children (The Basics)
Patient education: Full liquid diet (The Basics)

Patient education: Mouth and dental injuries in children (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jun 02, 2024.
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