Tooth Tips for Later Life

What Happens when a Tooth is Pushed Back into the Gum?

Toddlers and young children are no strangers to bumps, scrapes, and bruises caused by falls and collisions. Most parents keep a ready supply of colourful plasters to put on the numerous boo-boos that their children collect over the years. This is usually enough. However, injuries to teeth are a different matter altogether. Up to 18% of all injuries obtained by children up to the age of 6 occur in the oral region. The rarest of these oral injuries is primary tooth intrusion, wherein a child's milk tooth or baby tooth, is forced back into the alveolar socket (tooth socket).

Due to the sensitive nature of this area of the mouth, do not attempt to move the tooth back into position by pushing on it. This could damage the permanent (adult) tooth which may or may not be still growing in the space behind the primary tooth. Instead, book an appointment with your child's paediatric dentist immediately so that they can assess the damage.

The Dentist Will Perform an Examination

As well as assess the external damage, it is important that the dentist determines the extent of the internal damage—if any. The teeth most commonly affected by dental intrusion are the central incisors. Because of the traumatic nature of these injuries, the dentist will need to determine—via x-ray—if the permanent tooth, which sits in the jawbone behind the baby tooth, has been damaged. Only then can they decide upon a course of action.

Your Dentist May Extract the Tooth

If the intruded primary tooth in any way threatens the permanent tooth behind it, the paediatric dentist will extract it immediately. This is because permanent teeth that are still developing may develop enamel defects such as discoloration or hypoplasia (underdevelopment), if disturbed by an intruded primary tooth (baby tooth).

The Tooth Will Likely Re-Erupt

In most cases, providing the intruded tooth does not threaten the permanent tooth, an intruded primary incisor will re-erupt on its own. Although there may be swelling, looseness, and discolouration due to blood leaking into the affected tooth, the tooth should heal on its own without further intervention. However, ensure that you take your child back to the dentist for further examination. Teeth that remain discoloured may be abscessed and the dentist will need to remove the infected tissue to restore some of the tooth's colour.

As for the permanent tooth, a study found that 54% of permanent successors suffer some kind of side-effect post dental intrusion, the most common of which is enamel underdevelopment or discolouration. That is why it is important that you get your child to the dentist as soon as possible in the event that they suffer a dental intrusion injury.