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When Teeth Get Chipped, or Cracked at the Pool

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Lifeguards Save Smiles

Alex was a lifeguard for seven years, every summer. He stunned me when I heard how many times he’d prevented a potential mouth injury during his watch. He said, “Almost every day I worked”. Some folks slipped while walking way too fast (a.k.a. running), a few got hung up on deck chairs but most met the side or bottom of the pool with more force than expected.

Interestingly, many patients who hurt their mouth don’t come in with any superficial wounds because the face heals so quickly. They arrive at our practice with a front tooth that is loose, chipped, or painful, because it has cracked vertically. Depending on the angle of the crack, it may be difficult to see even on an x-ray. X-rays to assist in the determination of whether the nerve has damage. Sometimes we “trans-illuminate”, bouncing the light from over the dental chair onto a mouth mirror and then aiming this light at the sensitive tooth from different angles.

Once we narrow down the extent of damage, we will determine whether a crown, root canal, or removal is necessary.  If there is no pain present, we may “wait and see” how or if the traumatized tooth “heals” itself.

I urge parents to add a paragraph on mouth injuries to their Pool Safety Rules, within the next month. My own children were required to sit on a deck chair for 15 minutes when an adult saw a violation of the rules. I doubled it when they were a “repeat offender”. Now, some use this method with their own children!