Bumped Mouth or Tooth

Many parents wonder if their child should receive medical attention after a dental or mouth injury. Children with any of the following symptoms should be evaluated by a healthcare provider. Depending upon the particular circumstances, this may be done over the phone, at the pediatrician’s or dentist’s office, or in an emergency department:

  • If there is pain, tenderness, or sensitivity (to hot/cold or pressure) in a tooth
  • If there is a broken, loose, or missing tooth after trauma (the tooth could have been inhaled or swallowed)
  • If there is bleeding that does not stop after applying pressure for 10 minutes
  • If there is pain in the jaw when opening or closing the mouth
  • If there is difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • If there is an object stuck in the roof of the mouth, cheek, tongue, or throat (do NOT remove the object)
  • If there is a large or gaping cut inside the mouth or on the face
  • If the child could have a puncture in the back of the throat
  • If there is a cut on the lip that extends through the lip’s border into the surrounding skin
  • If the child is weak, numb, or has blurred vision or slurred speech
  • If the parent is concerned about the child’s condition
  • If the child develops a fever (temperature 100.4F/38C) or other signs of infection after a mouth or tooth injury (localized redness, pus, increasing pain); signs of more serious infection may include neck pain or stiffness, inability to open the mouth completely, drooling, or chest pain.

The parent or child should try to describe how the injury occurred. If there is any reason to suspect that another adult or child intentionally injured the child, this should be discussed with the healthcare provider. During the examination, the clinician will examine the child’s mouth, throat, head, and neck.

Depending upon the injury, some children will need an imaging test (x-ray, CT scan, MRI). The imaging test can help to determine if there are fractures in a bone, damage to the root of a tooth, damage to a blood vessel, or if the child has swallowed or inhaled a foreign body (ie, a piece of a tooth). Not every child with a dental or mouth injury will require an imaging test.

The treatment for dental injuries depends upon the type of injury and whether the injured tooth is a primary (baby) or permanent (adult) tooth.

Parents will also wonder if a child’s permanent or primary teeth were injured. Permanent teeth are not usually present before six to seven years of age. Primary teeth look different than permanent teeth. In addition, x-rays can be used to differentiate primary from permanent teeth, if needed.