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Traumatic oral injuries can range from dental injuries to the teeth and their supporting tissues to lacerations in and around the mouth as well as more complex and severe damage to the soft tissues and bones of the face. These injuries are often caused by direct physical trauma to the teeth, mouth and face that may be the result of a fall, sports or work related incidents, motor vehicle accidents or assaults.
Chipped, Fractured or Cracked Teeth
It is not uncommon for a tooth to sustain a chip, crack or fracture. It may happen simply from biting down on a piece of ice, chewing on a pencil, or sustaining trauma such as a direct blow to the face and mouth. The damage to a tooth can range from a minor craze line or a small chip of the dental enamel to a more extensive fracture of the tooth that can even go so far as to fracture the root or split the tooth. Based upon the extent of damage to the fractured or cracked tooth, treatment may simply involve placing a suitable restoration such as a filling or crown or a root canal procedure along with a restoration. When the damage is extensive, an extraction is sometimes required.
Dentoalveolar injuries refer to traumatic injuries involving the teeth and the bone surrounding the teeth. These injuries can include teeth that have been dislodged or moved partially out of their sockets, with or without a segment of the adjacent bone, or an avulsion, which means that a tooth has been completely “knocked out” of its socket. In these situations, immediate dental care to reposition and stabilize the involved teeth and/or put the bone back into the correct anatomical positions is required. Beyond the routine post op care to check for tissue healing, the involved teeth are typically followed for a longer period of time to check for subsequent nerve involvement or other issues that may require additional care.
Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries in and around the oral cavity include lacerations within the mouth (intra-oral) and facial lacerations. If possible clean the area gently with water and apply a cold compress. For puncture wounds, tissue tears, and lacerations to the lips, cheeks, tongue or any other tissues in and around the oral cavity, prompt emergency care is required.
Dislocated or Fractured Jaw
Facial trauma that has resulted in a suspected dislocation or jaw fracture requires immediate care as problems with eating and breathing can ensue. Prompt care can minimize complications and accelerate healing. For a fractured jaw, treatment depends upon the extent of the injuries. While some clean breaks may only require immobilization, multiple fractures of the jawbone or displaced breaks involve more complex surgical care. If on the other hand the jaw has been dislocated as a result of a traumatic incident or opening the mouth too widely, it will need to be manipulated back into the correct position. For people who have had more than one dislocation, surgery may be needed to reduce the risk of further dislocations.