Chipped Teeth and Toddlers: What Parents Need to Know

Chipped Teeth and Toddlers: What Parents Need to Know
Posted on 02/15/2017

Your child's second and third years of life are marked with clumsiness. The quest to learn walking and running is punctuated with thousands of trips, falls, bumps, and bruises. Unfortunately, your child's teeth can be right in the path of injury. It only takes one fall on a hard surface to chip a tooth.

Chipped teeth are not always serious, but they can present some dental complications, especially for children who still haven't mastered dental hygiene or full speech. Here's what parents need to know about toddler tooth chips.

See Your Dentist

The severity of tooth chips varies greatly, and sometimes, you cannot judge whether or not a tooth is badly injured until your dentist examines it. Some chips are superficial, requiring no intervention. Others might necessitate filing down. Larger chips that extend beyond the hard enamel exterior of the tooth will need to be filled or, in severe cases, capped.

Unfortunately, children of this age struggle to sit still for proper fillings and exams. It's best to see a pediatric dentist who has the expertise and specialized equipment designed for working with young children.

Expect Discoloration

Because toddlers often chip their teeth during a fall, the chip is not the only sign of damage. Blunt force to your toddler's tooth can result in the tooth turning brown, black, red, or grey. Usually, this discoloration is temporary.

It's caused by damage to the blood vessels in the tooth. These burst from the force of the fall. The blood colors the tooth in a manner similar to how blood gives a bruise color when you bump your skin. As the blood vessels heal and the "bruise" breaks down, the tooth returns to its usual creamy color.

In some cases, the discoloration does not fade, which means you'll need to get to the tooth checked again by the dentist. Teeth that stay black or grey may be damaged beyond repair, so the dentist will need to check for signs of infection or necrosis.

Increase Your Commitment to Home Dental Care

After you've seen your dentist about the chip, you'll need to make sure the chipped area is cleaned thoroughly with proper brushing at least twice a day. Chips that are filed down or too small to fill may not have caused any lasting damage to your child's tooth, but they can be a chink in the armor—decay is more likely to occur in or around the chipped area.

Never allow your toddler to brush their own teeth without the help of an adult. Young children do not have the motor control to properly clean their own teeth. Your dentist may also prescribe fluoride tablets as another precaution, especially if you live in an area without fluoridated tap water.

Know the Signs of an Abscess

Unfortunately, teeth that experience forceful trauma may not fully recover. The force of the blow can cause the tooth the slowly die over a period of several months, even if no discoloration is present. A chip may extend microscopic cracks that allow bacteria into the tooth pulp. Either of these scenarios can lead to an abscess.

Parents should learn the signs of a dental abscess to catch the condition early. If left untreated, abscesses can spread to other tissues in the face, and even cause brain damage or blindness. Be sure to watch for:

  • Complaints of facial pain. Remember that toddlers have not developed the strongest vocabulary. They may complain that their nose, neck, cheek, or lip hurts, unable to place the pain in a specific tooth. If your child consistently complains about an area of the face hurting, check the area where the chipped tooth meets the gum line for redness or pus.
  • Swelling. Swelling becomes more pronounced as the infection spreads. Chipped front teeth are the most common. When a front tooth is abscessed, the front lip will become so swollen that it will resemble a duck's bill. Other areas of swelling include the neck and jaw.
  • Fever. As the infection sets in, your child will spike a high fever.
  • Unexplained bleeding inside the mouth. Some abscesses can bleed. You child might have blood in his or her mouth that did not come from biting the lip or brushing too hard.
  • Changes in eating habits. This is especially common in early abscess development. As the tooth becomes increasingly uncomfortable, your child will avoid using it. He or she might chew on only one side of the mouth, bite with the side teeth instead of the front, or avoid hot and cold foods.
  • Disrupted sleep. The pain from a developing abscess can be so pronounced your child will wake up complaining.

If you notice these signs, you should seek emergency dental treatment for your child.

For more information on chipped tooth repair and care, contact us at Dentistry for Children & Adolescents.


Dentistry for Children & Adolescents

  • Edina Office - 7373 France Ave. S., Suite 402, Edina, MN 55435 Phone: 952-831-4400
  • Burnsville Office - 14050 Nicollet Ave., Suite 100, Burnsville, MN 55337 Phone: 952-435-4102
  • Eden Prairie Office - 6385 Old Shady Oak Road, Suite 150, Eden Prairie , MN 55344 Phone: 952-932-0920

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