Oral injury in children

 
Contributed by : Asha Lalwani, Ravina Sewani   
Oral injury in children

Oral trauma refers to injuries to the mouth and/or teeth.

Oral trauma refers to injuries to the mouth and/or teeth. It is common in early childhood, particularly when babies and toddlers are learning to walk and remain unsteady on their feet.


Types and causes of oral injuries:

  • Cuts and scratches on the inside of the mouth or the lips
  • Injuries to the teeth, including chipped and displaced teeth and teeth being knocked out
  • Burn to the lips or inside of the mouth


First aid for cuts and scratches:

  • Clean your hands properly before handling your child's injury.
  • Have the child rinse his/her mouth with water so that the site of injury can be identified.
  • Apply pressure with a piece of gauze or clean cloth to stop the bleeding.
  • Apply a cold pack or ice wrapped in a thin cloth to the lip and mouth if there is any swelling.
  • The child should receive medical care for any injury that might need stitches. An example of an injury that requires stitches is a cut that extends through the lip or across the edge of the tongue.
  • Don't apply any cream or ointment on the injury unless prescribed by a dentist.


First aid for Injuries to teeth:

If a baby, toddler, or young child injures the gums or baby teeth:

  • Apply pressure to the area, if it's bleeding, with a piece of cold, wet gauze or clean cloth. If your child is old enough to follow directions, ask him or her to bite down on the gauze or cloth.
  • Offer an ice pop to suck on to reduce swelling, or hold an ice-pack wrapped in a washcloth to the cheek.
  • Call a dentist and describe the situation. If the dentist finds the need, (s)he will prescribe a medicine. Do not give any medication to your child without the dentist’s prescription.
  • Watch for swelling of the gums, continued pain, a fever, or a change in the colour of the tooth.


If a permanent tooth is chipped or broken: When your child’s permanent tooth falls off, you should visit a dentist immediately. The tooth that is re-implanted within 30 minutes, proves to be highly successful. Meanwhile you can take care of certain things like:

  • Collect all pieces of the tooth. Hold the tooth by the crown, not the root.
  • Store the tooth in your child’s saliva or in milk. Do not store it in tap water.
  • Rinse the mouth with warm water.
  • Control the bleeding with cloth or sterile gauze.
  • For swelling and pain, apply cool compress or suck on frozen pop.
  • Call a dentist schedule a visit as soon as possible.
  • Never try to push a dislodged or knocked out tooth back into its socket. It may cause infection or damage the permanent teeth that are sitting beneath the child’s gums, waiting to emerge at around six years of age.


Prevention:

Make sure kids wear mouth guards during sports and helmets while biking, skateboarding, and inline skating. Childproof your house to prevent falls.


First aid for mouth and lip burns:

  • Run cool water over the burnt area and provide pain killers, prescribed by a doctor, if required. Once the lip burn has been cooled with cool running water, soft white paraffin should be applied to the lips.
  • Never apply ice to a burnt lip (or other burnt skin) as they may cause further damage. Burn gels should only be used if running water is not available.
  • The inside of the mouth may be burnt if a child inhales hot steam or gas. Internal oral burns are potentially life threatening as they may prevent the child from breathing. Difficulty breathing is the most common symptom of burns to the inside of the mouth. Visit the emergency department immediately if a child burns the inside of their mouth by inhaling a hot substance.


Treatment at the dentist's clinic:

  • A dentist will diagnose the type of injury by looking at the insides of the mouth. (S)he may order a 3D x-ray of the mouth called if a fracture is suspected. A chest x-ray might be done if the dentist suspects the child to have swallowed a tooth. A dental x-ray might be done to diagnose the injury properly.
  • If the child’s injuries indicate they may have experienced additional injuries, the dentist may refer them to a doctor. The child may need to see a doctor if they experience:
  1. Loss of consciousness or altered consciousness
  2. Breathing difficulties
  3. Nausea or vomiting
  4. Bleeding that does not stop



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