Dentoalveolar Trauma

Ovid: 5-Minute Sports Medicine Consult, The

Dentoalveolar Trauma
Mark H. Mirabelli
Matthew D. Capuano
Dentoalveolar injuries include dental avulsion, dental luxation, extrusion and intrusion, enamel and crown fractures, root fracture, and alveolar bone fracture.
  • 25% of all respondents between the ages of 6 and 50 yrs reported suffering at least one traumatic dental injury to their anterior teeth for all causes in the U.S. (1).
  • ∼30% of children have experienced dental injuries (2).
  • The peak period for trauma to the primary teeth is 18–40 mos of age because this is a time of increased mobility for the relatively uncoordinated toddler. Injuries to primary teeth usually result from falls and collisions as the child learns to walk and run (2).
  • With the permanent teeth, school-aged boys suffer trauma almost twice as frequently as girls.
  • Sports accidents and fights are the most common cause of dental trauma in teenagers.
  • The upper (maxillary) central incisors are the most commonly injured teeth.
  • Data show that these orofacial injuries occur primarily during recreational sports and organized athletic events. Individuals who incur facial trauma during noncompetitive sporting events go vastly underreported, which skews the reporting. 2 independent retrospective studies show that at least 60% of the injuries were incurred by males in the age range of 8–18 yrs.
  • 90.3% of crown fractures or crown-root fractures occur from direct trauma (3).
  • The most commonly involved teeth were the central incisors (58.3%), and the 2nd most commonly involved teeth were the maxillary lateral incisors.
  • The previous study showed a seasonal variation in incidence. These data demonstrate the probable correlation between outdoor activities and predominance of dental trauma during warmer times of the year (in the northern hemisphere) (1).
  • 5–35% of the population; 75% under 15 yrs of age
  • Predominant gender: Male > Female (3:1); equal or higher rates sometimes reported for females than males when corrected for exposure rates.
Risk Factors
  • Protection: mouth guards are associated with a 7–10-fold reduction in risk.
  • Sports: Baseball, basketball, cycling, hockey, soccer, skiing, rugby, football, wrestling, boxing and martial arts
  • Anatomy: Protruding maxillary incisors, lip incompetence, class II malocclusion
  • Previous injury
General Prevention
  • Face masks, in sports such as hockey and football, provide protection against trauma to the mouth and face.
  • Mouth guards reduce oral lacerations and tooth fractures and displacement and cushion impacts that could result in condylar displacement and subsequent injury. They dramatically reduced injury rates when mandated.
  • Stock mouth guards are the most inexpensive but lack customized fit. The athlete has to continuously bite down on mouth guard for it to not become loose and free in the mouth. These mouth guards come with the risk that if the patient becomes unconscious, the mouth guard may be extruded from the oral cavity or obstruct the airway. They are often bulky and may interfere with speech and breathing.
  • Mouth-formed or boil and bite mouth guards are the most commonly commercially sold mouth guards, and many types are available. These mouth guards are best fit by a dentist but may be fit at home. Inconsistent retention, fit, and quality make these mouth guards still not the most desirable option, although a better option than stock mouth guards. They are molded to the mouth after being placed in boiling water and then are set in cold water after being placed in the athlete's mouth.
  • Custom-fitted mouth guards are fit in a 2-stage process by a dentist for maxillary (class I or II occlusion) or mandibular (class III occlusion) arches. They provide increased comfort, compliance, and protection. They may last several years and are impractical for children under 13 yrs of age owing to rapid dental changes. They may be formed by vacuum or pressure lamination (preferred) processes. These mouth guards exhibit the most reliable retention rates and limit the incidence of dental trauma. The high cost of these mouth guards can be easily justifiable economically relative to the cost of cosmetic or restorative dentistry.
  • Etiology (2):
    • Falls made up 49% of cases (including uncoordinated childhood falls).
    • Sports-related injuries occurred in 18% of cases.
    • Bicycle and scooter accidents accounted for 13% of cases.
    • Assaults made up 7% of cases.
    • Road traffic accidents resulted in 1% of cases.
    • All others 12%
  • Pathophysiology:
    • Enamel fracture only (Ellis class I), 15.8%:
      • Roughness of chipped tooth on tongue
      • May go unnoticed by athlete
      • Not a dental emergency
    • Enamel and dentin fracture (Ellis class II), 39.9%:
      • Exposure of yellow dentin
      • Pain with dentin exposure to air, cold drinks, or touch
      • Not a dental emergency
    • Enamel, dentin, pulp exposed (Ellis class III), 25.7%:
      • Dental emergency (within 3 hr)
      • Exposure of red-pink dental pulp
      • Vital with closed root apex: Less complex treatment
      • Vital pulp with open root apex: More complex but viable
      • Dental pulp opening appears dry or oozes putrescent exudates and no pain: Nonviable
    • Root fractures (Ellis class IV):
      • Dental emergency (within 3 hr)
      • Middle (1/3) root fractures have a good prognosis depending on time of evaluation and treatment. This root fracture can be identified by its longer visible coronal segment and it being partially extruded compared with other teeth. The tooth is likely to bleed from the gingival sulcus, and with gentle finger pressure it may be rotated in the socket.
      • Cervical 3rd fractures have the worst prognosis of all root fractures.
      • Apical root fractures have the best prognosis for maintaining viability, especially if lacking segmental mobility.
    • P.111

    • Extrusion, intrusion, lateral luxations:
      • Displacement (not fracture) involving periodontal ligament (ie, stretch, compress, rupture ligament)
      • Lateral luxation involves movement of tooth in anterior/posterior plane: Follow up with dentist within 24 hr for splinting or immediately if tooth cannot be repositioned.
      • Intrusion involves movement of tooth inward:
        • May be extremely painful, painless, or numb depending on the extent of nerve root injury.
        • Dental emergency (within 3 hr)
      • Extrusion is movement of the tooth out of the socket: Follow up with dentist within 24 hr for splinting or immediately if tooth cannot be repositioned.
    • Avulsion (tooth exarticulation): Dental emergency (immediate): Time inversely related to viability.
    • Associated soft tissue injury (abrasions, lacerations, contusions):
      • Lacerations of the lip: 55.8%
      • Abrasions of face constituted 34.2%
      • Abrasions of lip constituted 30.2%
      • Abrasions of mentum constituted 21%
      • Abrasions of nose constituted 13%
      • Abrasions of other regions constituted 1.5%
Commonly Associated Conditions
  • Facial contusion, laceration, fracture
  • Mandible fracture
  • Intraoral laceration (tongue, buccal mucosa, gingiva)
  • Concussion
Suspicions for dental trauma:
  • Impact to jaw, face, or any part of skull or neck leaving bruising or ecchymosis, diffuse or focal
  • Facial swelling, bleeding from mouth or gums
  • Patient complains of ear, jaw, or neck pain or headache
  • Patient intolerant of drinking hot or cold fluids ± inability to chew
Pre Hospital
  • Evaluate patient for signs of shock or acute blood loss.
  • Determine the extent of injury because this dictates how quickly action must be taken.
  • Response time is paramount when discussing viability of teeth affected by dental trauma. Better outcomes result from proper interventions done early in the time course.
  • Assess all lacerations for severity and necessity of intervention by dentist or oral maxillofacial surgeon.
  • Mechanism of injury and associated injuries (4)
  • Force and vector of injury: This is paramount to identify all injuries visible or potentially concealed by soft tissue injury and swelling.
  • Time since injury, time tooth was out of mouth, method of storage and transport
  • Past dental history, past general medical and surgical history
  • Medications and allergies
  • Last tetanus shot
Physical Exam
  • Signs and symptoms include:
    • Pain and tenderness to percussion or palpation
    • Temperature sensitivity
    • Color changes
    • Tooth loosening
  • Physical examination includes:
    • Assess levels of consciousness, and ensure that airway, breathing, and circulation are intact.
    • Begin with general examination of the head and neck, including skull, eyes, ears, nose, cervical spine, and anterior neck.
    • Proceed with extraoral exam. Palpate the mandible, zygoma, temporomandibular joint, and mastoid region. Check for any mandibular or maxillary fractures that are present. Find mandibular fractures by feeling the lower border of the mandible for a step-down fracture. Identify any extraoral lacerations, bruises, or swelling. If a laceration is present in the upper or lower lip, the area must be inspected for foreign bodies such as gravel or tooth fragments. Any foreign bodies must be débrided from the soft tissue.
    • The mandibular condyles and maxilla should be carefully palpated. Check jaw movements for normal range of movements. Chin lacerations require careful evaluation of the cervical spine and mandibular condyles. Indications of condylar fractures include an anterior open bite, a malocclusion, or limited mandibular opening. Confirmation of condylar fractures requires a panoramic radiograph with closed- and open–mouth views.
    • Follow this with a detailed intraoral exam. Identify and account for all missing teeth, if possible. Explore oral cavity to identify extent of dental and oral mucosa damage. The labial and buccal mucosa, maxillary frenum, gingival tissues, and tongue should be examined for bruising or lacerations. All intraoral lacerations must be cleaned and explored, looking for any foreign bodies. Palpate the alveolus to detect any fractures. Have the patient clench the teeth so that the dental occlusion can be evaluated. Each tooth should be examined for damage or mobility. Multiple types of injuries to each tooth must be suspected. Excess mobility suggests root and alveolar fractures; this is also seen with luxation injuries to a lesser degree. Malalignment may indicate luxation injury or fracture. Modular movement of adjacent teeth suggests alveolar fractures.
Diagnostic Tests & Interpretation
  • Radiographic examination: For evaluating injuries to the maxillary or mandibular teeth, an occlusal radiograph is the film of choice.
    • 2 periapical views at different angles if a root fracture is suspected are required for a definite diagnosis.
    • For deep tooth structure evaluation (ie, Ellis class III, root, jaw fractures, intruded teeth), a lateral anterior radiograph provides additional useful information.
    • Chest radiograph if dyspneic, hemoptysis, or missing tooth to evaluate for aspirated tooth fragment
    • Panorex (panoramic radiograph) helps to evaluate suspected mandibular or condylar fractures.
  • Routine radiographs may not show root fractures; dental films (panoramic film with selected periapical views at multiple angles) are indicated with a low index of suspicion. Fractures may not be evident initially; negative films may be repeated 1–2 days after injury.
  • Postreduction views are needed to rule out root or alveolar fractures and confirm placement after reimplantation or splinting of an avulsed tooth.
  • Photographic documentation: The use of preoperative and postoperative photography may be useful for documentation purposes.
Differential Diagnosis
  • Associated trauma: Ruled out by history, physical examination, and radiography
  • Mandibular fractures and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) damage: Check occlusion, limitation of jaw motion, mobility of multiple teeth or jaw fragments, maxillary/hard palate mobility, anesthesia/paresthesia of the cheek and lip, as well as radiography.
  • Soft tissue injuries: Include radiographs if not all tooth fragments are accounted for.
Ongoing Care
  • Tooth avulsion:
    • Endodontic treatment is usually required at 1–2 wks in teeth with a closed apex (after pulpal ischemic necrosis, before infection) to prevent periapical abscess formation and root resorption. Teeth with an open apex may reestablish blood supply; thermal sensitivity testing is performed every 3–4 wks, with root canal treatment delayed until clinical or radiographic signs of disease. Calcium hydroxide treatment also may be considered to prevent inflammatory root resorption.
    • Follow-up is essential at least every 6 mos for several years; potential root resorption must be monitored and alveolar bone optimized for prosthetic implantation considerations.
  • Tooth fractures:
    • Crown fractures: Definitive restoration should be performed as soon as possible, especially if the arch is crowded, because delay may allow encroachment of adjacent teeth and necessitate orthodontic treatment before restoration. Root canal treatment may be required in 1–2 wks in cases of pulp exposure.
    • Root fractures: Monthly clinical and radiographic evaluation should be performed during splinting and then every 3–6 mos for at least 2 yrs; 20–45% have pulpal necrosis and require pulpotomy, root canal treatment, or prosthesis. Hard tissue union is more likely with pulpal vitality, younger patients, closer fragment opposition, and increased root diameter.
  • Tooth luxation:
    • Intrusion: Radiographic monitoring for pulp necrosis or root resorption should occur every 3 wks. Orthodontic extrusion is required if re-eruption is not satisfactory after 3 mos. Root canal treatment is required in 2–3 wks for 95% of teeth with mature roots and 65% of teeth with immature roots owing to pulp necrosis.
    • Lateral luxation requires follow-up with radiographs every 3 mos for 2 yrs to ensure that root resorption or loss of pulp vitality is not evident.
Soft or liquid diet may be necessary for a time to further protect teeth and allow for healing.
1. Ranalli DN. Sports dentistry and dental traumatology. Dent Traumatol. 2002;18:231–236.
2. Wright D, Bell A, McGlashan G, et al. Dentoalveolar trauma in Glasgow: an audit of mechanism of injury. Dental Traumatology. 2007: doi: 10.1111/j.1600–9657.2006.00430
3. Castro JCM, Poi WR, Manfrin TM, et al. Analysis of the crown fractures and crown root fractures due to dental trauma assisted by the Integrated Clinic from 1992 to 2002. Dental Traumatology. 2005:21:121–126.
4. Torg JS, Greenberg MS, Springer PS. Diagnosis and management of oral injuries. St. Louis: Mosby-Year Book, 1991.
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9. Mark DG, Granquist EJ. Are prophylactic oral antibiotics indicated for the treatment of intraoral wounds? Ann Emerg Med. 2008;52:368–372.
  • 873.62 Open wound of gum (alveolar process), uncomplicated
  • 873.63 Open wound of internal structures of mouth, tooth (broken) (fractured) (due to trauma), uncomplicated
  • 873.72 Open wound of gum (alveolar process), complicated

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