Caring for children is not for the weak of stomach. Many common nursery and preschool accidents involve the mouth and teeth, and it’s hard to stem the flow of blood from a mouth wound when you can’t calm the child with a dummy or bottle. As a caregiver for youngsters, these are the situations I’ve experienced most often — here’s how to manage if it happens to a child in your care.
Chipped, cracked, or lost teeth
A hard knock to a tooth from a ball or a fall is a regular occurrence for many children. Rinse away blood, dirt, or debris with clean, cold water. Use ice packs applied gently on the outside of the cheek or mouth to reduce swelling.
If the tooth is chipped or dislocated, seek treatment from the dentist as soon as possible. Cracked or broken teeth will not heal on their own, and even primary teeth need to be checked and treated.
Any change in tooth colour such as pink, yellow, dark, or black is a signal you should take the child to the emergency dentist immediately. Time is of the essence in any dental emergency, I’ve personal experience of this and Harry ended up having to have his 2 front teeth removed under general a few years ago.
Torn maxillary frenulum
Babies who walk early lack the keen eyes required for depth perception, and toddlers have trouble coordinating their responses quickly enough to stop a fall. When a new walker trips and their little hands don’t break the fall, they can tear the connecting tissue between the two front teeth that attach the upper lip to the gum, commonly known as the frenulum.
Apply pressure on the wound by pressing the overlying outer lip against the teeth for 10 minutes. Beware of checking on it too often, as it will bleed again every time you pull on the lip to look at the bleeding site. It will be safe to look at again in three days.
The volume of blood from this type of mouth injury will lead you to believe that something is drastically wrong, but that’s because the mouth and head are such blood-rich areas. A tear to this piece of tissue isn’t serious, and it always heals without sutures.
Cuts to the lower lip or tongue
Many children fall and bite their lower lip or tongue from both sides because the soft tissue gets caught in their opposing bite. For small injuries, apply pressure with a piece of clean cloth for 5-10 minutes and encourage an ice pop or soft diet to reduce further injury.
If the opposing cuts go all the way through the lip or tongue, head straight to the hospital for sutures. If the cut is gaping open when the mouth is at rest, seek medical treatment. If the lip wound crosses the junction between the lip and skin, ask for a cosmetic surgeon to place the stitches to minimize scarring. Stitches should be placed within the first 4-6 hours after injury.
The rich blood supply of the tongue and mouth may cause even small wounds to ooze blood for several hours. Keep the area clean and limit high-intensity play for the balance of the day.
Preparation is your best bet
Kids are creative, even when it comes to injuries, so this list isn’t exhaustive. Learning to walk involves a lot of coordination which isn’t present at the beginning. This translates to plenty of big and small falls with the potential for injury. Anything involving the mouth and teeth is sure to bleed like a horror movie, but rest assured most wounds are simple and will heal on their own.