Millions of Americans have teeth knocked out each year. The most common causes are accidents and sports-related injuries. While a knocked-out tooth is an emergency requiring prompt dental care, there are steps you can take to improve your chances that the tooth can be saved.
Find the Tooth
If possible, try to locate the missing tooth. When you find the tooth, make sure you pick it up by the crown to avoid damaging the root. The crown is the portion of the tooth that is normally exposed.
Gently Clean the Tooth
Carefully rinse the tooth with water to remove any loose dirt. You should not scrub the tooth or wash it with any type of soap or chemicals as this could damage vital tissue that may aid in reattachment. It’s important to keep the tooth moist, so you should avoid drying it or wrapping it in a paper towel or tissue.
Reinsert the Tooth if Possible
A tooth is more likely to survive if it is repositioned back into the socket. To do this, you should use your fingers to push the tooth into the socket. You should then hold the tooth in place with your fingers or by biting down on the tooth gently. A loose tooth can be a choking hazard. It’s important only to attempt reinserting the tooth if the individual can hold it in place without the risk of accidentally swallowing it.
What to Do if You Can’t Reinsert the Tooth
It’s imperative that you keep the tooth moist at all times. If you cannot replace the tooth into the socket, you should take one of the following steps:
- If one is available, use an emergency tooth preservation kit, such as Save-a-Tooth®.
- Place the tooth in a cup of milk.
- Tuck the tooth between your cheek and gum if you can do so without swallowing it.
Water can be used as a last resort; however, tap water may damage the surface cells of the root if used for an extended period.
See Your Dentist Immediately
You have the greatest chance of saving the tooth if you see your dentist or an endodontist within 30 minutes.
What Will My Dentist Do With My Tooth?
First, your dentist will examine you for any other dental or facial injuries. They will also evaluate the tooth to see if it is suitable for reattachment. If so, the tooth will be reinserted, and you may be fitted with a stabilizing splint, which you will be required to wear for a few weeks. Depending on the tooth, your dentist or endodontist may begin root canal treatment within a couple of weeks.
What About Follow-up Treatment?
In some cases, your body may reject the tooth after a traumatic injury. This process, called root resorption, can happen as long as five years after a tooth injury. Following your injury, you should see your dentist regularly to assess the health and stability of the reattached tooth.
What If My Tooth Can’t Be Replaced?
In some instances, the tooth may be too damaged to be reattached or may die due to root resorption. If this happens, you shouldn’t panic. There are various options available, such as dental implants that can replace the lost tooth and restore your smile.