How to Solve Baby Tooth Problems and Injuries

However careful you are, it’s not unusual for babies and toddlers to damage their teeth. Although tooth decay or a chipped, loose, broken or knocked out baby tooth or bleeding gums might seem scary, all you need is a cool head and some of these tips for coping with most common tooth issues and injuries.

How to Deal With a Baby Tooth, Gum or Mouth Injury

No matter how well you’ve baby-proofed your home, active toddlers are still prone to the occasional bump or fall.

After your little one starts teething, there’s always a chance he or she might suffer a knock to one of those brand-new teeth. Mouth injuries are common among small children. Fortunately, they’re usually not as bad as they look. Here are some general tips should your little one have a tooth or gum injury:

  • Keep calm. If your child damages or knocks out a tooth, it’s hard not to panic. But try to stay calm and comfort your baby or toddler. The mouth has a good blood supply, which is why things often look worse than they are. The good news is that the mouth is also quick to heal.

  • Try to stop any bleeding. Even a small cut to the gums or inside of the mouth can seem to bleed a lot. If there’s bleeding, apply firm, constant pressure with a clean finger or handkerchief.

  • If bleeding doesn't stop, seek medical help. If the bleeding doesn’t stop within 15 minutes or so, see a dentist or take your child to A&E.

  • Give pain relief. Ask your doctor about whether to give your child something to relieve the pain.

  • Try a soothing ice cube. If your child is weaned and old enough to safely suck on a small ice stick or sugar-free ice lolly, this could help soothe the pain. Supervise your child closely when there’s anything like this in his or her mouth, to avoid the risk of choking.

  • Call the dentist. The dentist will be able to advise on the best course of action if a permanent or baby tooth is damaged or knocked out.

baby tooth damage

If a Tooth Is Knocked Out

If a tooth is knocked, the treatment can depend on whether it is a milk tooth or a permanent tooth. The following guidelines may apply:

  • Baby teeth. Don’t try and put a baby tooth back in your little one’s mouth if it’s completely knocked out, as this could damage the permanent teeth growing in the gums underneath. Instead, speak to your dentist as soon as possible to see what if anything needs to happen.

  • Permanent teeth. Knocked-out permanent teeth can often be saved by putting them back into their socket as soon as possible and going to see the dentist straight away. Call 111 or the dentist, who will tell you exactly what to do. If the tooth won’t go back in, put it in a small pot of milk or saliva (ask your child to spit into the container) and take it to the dentist immediately. Always try to hold a tooth by the crown (the part that sticks out of the gum, and not the root). Your child’s permanent teeth usually start coming through around the age of 5 or 6.

  • If you aren’t sure whether the knocked-out tooth is a baby tooth or a permanent tooth, put it in milk or saliva and take it straight to the dentist.

How to Deal with a Broken or Chipped Baby Tooth

It's not uncommon for your baby or toddler to partially break, chip or crack a tooth due to falls or bumps and accidents while playing or just getting the hang of new skills like walking or running.

Such accidents might make a baby tooth

  • loose or wobbly

  • chipped or broken

  • out of position.

Regardless of the kind of damage, the tooth needs to be looked at by a dentist, who can determine what kind of treatment (if any) is needed. Follow the steps above and make an appointment to see your child’s dentist.

If Your Baby Has Bleeding Gums, Lips or Tongue

An accident that causes bleeding gums, lips or tongue can be quite a shock, but here’s what you can do:

  • Don't panic if you see a lot of blood – there are lots of little blood vessels in the mouth, gums lips and tongue, so cuts or bumps in this area can put on quite a show when it comes to bleeding and swelling

  • Apply cold pressure with a small bag of ice or wet gauze until the bleeding stops

  • Offer lots of hugs and maybe a game like ‘peekaboo’ to ease the pain and distract your child

  • Call 111 or your child’s doctor if the bleeding doesn’t stop in around 15 minutes.

Help Your Baby Recover After a Gum or Tooth Injury

Take the following steps to help relieve your little one’s discomfort and prevent or deal with infections:

  • Encourage your child to rinse his or mouth out with water after eating, to keep the mouth area clean

  • Avoid giving your child salty or spicy foods for a few days until the tooth or gum injury is healed

  • Sugar-free cold drinks or ice lollies are great for helping to soothe pain and relieve swelling

  • Finish any course of antibiotics that are prescribed by your child’s dentist or doctor

  • Watch for signs of infection – like renewed redness or swelling around the site of the injury – for the next week or two, and let your doctor know if you suspect an infection

  • Seek urgent medical attention if your little one develops a fever, sore throat, hoarseness, breathing difficulties or swelling/redness around the face and neck.

Baby Tooth Decay

Some parents might think that because baby teeth are later replaced by adult teeth, decay or cavities in baby teeth don’t really matter. However, a rotten baby tooth can result in pain and infection, and severely decayed baby teeth may need to be filled or removed. Here are some ways to prevent baby tooth decay and look after your baby’s teeth:

  • Avoid sugary drinks and snacks. Don't give your little one sweetened fizzy drinks, juices or smoothies. Sweets and sugary snacks can also cause tooth decay and cavities.

  • Ditch the feeding bottle. Start encouraging your baby to move from a feeding bottle to a free-flow feeder cup from 6 months old and aim to stop using a bottle altogether by the age of 1 if possible – children tend to suck on feeding bottles and spouts with anti-spill valves for a long time, so drinks that might cause decay are in contact with your baby’s teeth for longer.

  • Don’t sweeten the dummy. Never dip your baby’s dummy in anything sweet like syrup or jam, as this can lead to cavities. Experts recommended weaning your little one off a dummy by around the age of 12 months if you can.

  • Clean your baby’s gums and teeth regularly. Even before the baby teeth appear, you can start working on dental hygiene. This sets up a great routine that will hopefully result in lifelong good dental hygiene habits. From the very start, you can wipe your baby’s gums with a soft gauze or clean finger. Once the first tooth pokes through, you can start brushing at least twice a day with a soft baby toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste suitable for your child’s age. Here’s how to brush your baby’s teeth: o Put a smear of toothpaste on the brush for a baby up to 3 years old, and a pea-sized lump for children aged 3 to 6 years old o Sit your small child on your knee, or stand behind an older child, with his or her head tilted backwards o Move the brush in small circles, making sure you cover all the surfaces of each tooth o Encourage your little one to spit out the toothpaste afterwards, but don’t rinse his or her mouth with water – rinsing can wash away the fluoride, which gives your baby’s teeth extra protection from decay o Help your child with brushing until he or she is able to do it properly without assistance. Most children won’t be able to brush their teeth effectively until at least around the age of 7.

  • Gentle brushing can also help soothe sore gums during teething. Get more tips on how to soothe your teething baby.

  • Visit the dentist regularly. Experts advise taking your child to the dentist as soon as milk teeth start appearing. This helps get your little one get used to the sights, sounds and smells of the dental surgery. Your child’s dentist may also spot any early signs of tooth decay and give you advice on dental care and on when to have regular dental check-ups.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • If a baby tooth is damaged, it’s best to have it assessed by a dentist, who can determine the best way to treat it.

  • No. A baby tooth that’s knocked or falls out should not be pushed back into the gum as this could damage the permanent teeth growing underneath.

The Bottom Line

We all know accidents happen, so it’s good to be prepared so you’ll know what to do if your baby or toddler does damage a tooth. By keeping these tips in mind and making caring for those baby teeth a part of your little one’s daily routine, you can help set your child up with a beautiful, healthy smile that will last a lifetime.

How we wrote this article

The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.