They are this summer’s must-have holiday essential, but oversized novelty pool floats are also one of the leading causes behind an expected spike in dental injuries over the Christmas break, a paediatric dental specialist has warned.
Dr Michael Chong, of the Paediatric Dental Practice on the Gold Coast, said he treated several children daily during the summer school holidays for dental trauma ranging from mild to severe.
Accidents involving pools and waterslides account for the largest proportion of the alarming statistic, which reflects the increased amount of time youngsters spend outdoors, around water, or engaging in potentially risky activities including riding bikes and scooters, and trampolining.
And while summer is the clinic’s busiest time for treating dental emergencies, ranging from a single chipped tooth to several teeth knocked out, Dr Chong noted a growing number of children with injuries resulting from the rise in popularity of giant pool floats.
The larger-than-life lilos, available in fanciful shapes including pink flamingos, rainbow-maned unicorns, doughnuts and mermaid tails, have become one of the season’s biggest trends, and are and in high demand across the region ahead of Christmas.
Dr Chong warned parents to closely supervise their children when around water to prevent high-spirited antics from ending in serious accidents.
“Leading into the Christmas holidays, we are bracing for the peak season of dental trauma among children of all ages, because people are out and about more, swimming in their pools and visiting waterparks,” Dr Chong said.
“We have seen a big increase in the number of accidents occurring with large, inflatable pool toys compared to a few years ago, with several cases of kids slipping or falling off and knocking their teeth either on the pool coping or steps.”
Dr Chong said it was common for multiple children to crowd onto the super-sized pool floats, which combined with the raised height of the inflatable toys and limited buffer zone between the pool coping spelled a recipe for dental disaster.
Out of the water, children commonly suffered dental trauma after slipping while walking or running around the pool wrapped in a towel, because they were unable to break their fall by placing their hand to the ground.
Dr Chong said parents could avoid this hazard simply by placing a towel underneath, rather than around, their child’s arms once they exited the water.
He also warned waterslides were another common culprit of holiday dental trauma, closely followed by scooters, then new bikes.
“Without wanting to dampen all the excitement of finding a brand-new scooter beneath the Christmas tree, unfortunately scooters are one of the most common cause of injuries we see among younger children, aged from around 3 to 8,” Dr Chong said.
“Scooters are one of the worst offenders as they tip forward easily, when the rider hits a small object or uneven pavement they go over the handlebars and their natural reaction is to hold on, so the face takes the full force of the fall.”
Among older children, bike accidents were a leading cause of dental trauma, which tended to be more severe, ranging from facial cuts, grazes and bruises to multiple loss of teeth or teeth forced up into gums, broken bones around the jaw and torn lips.
The Paediatric Dental Practice also saw several accidents resulting from trampolines where several children were jumping at once, while jumping castles at kids’ parties and festivals were another key concern.
Dr Chong said it was crucial to seek immediate treatment from a dentist or hospital emergency department as soon as possible after an accident.
“If the child has lost a tooth, try to locate it and handle it by the crown and not the root and store it in milk in a sealable container,” Dr Chong said.
“If the child is aged 6 and under and it is a baby tooth that was lost, do not to try to put it back in, but if it is an adult tooth, the best thing to do is rinse the tooth in milk if available, or water if not, then reposition it back in the mouth.
“If a parent or other confident adult can put the tooth back in the mouth straight away it can increase the chance of tooth survival significantly,” he said.
Dr Chong said the patient should then bite down on something soft, such as a shirt or tea towel, while urgent medical attention is sought.
It is crucial the tooth is either immediately replaced in the mouth or stored in milk, while medical attention should be sought within an hour of the incident, he said.