Saving a Knocked-Out Tooth
When characters in a movie lose a tooth, they often shrug it off, drop the tooth to the ground, and keep fighting. But what do you do in real life when someone actually gets a tooth knocked out? The answer is quite a lot! Whether it’s you or someone around you who has suffered this type of dental trauma, knowing what to do and acting quickly can actually help save the tooth. While we hope you’ll never have to use this knowledge about first aid for dental trauma, it’s best to know what to do so you can act quickly and decisively if you’re ever faced with this situation. As a result, we’ve broken down what you should do to handle knocked-out teeth as well as what you can expect from short- and long-term dental care.
This might sound easier said than done, but you really don’t need to worry! If you follow directions and act quickly, modern dentistry techniques provide a good chance for a dentist specialist to successfully save the tooth by reimplanting it in its socket. Plus, not panicking can save essential time and increase the likelihood for a better overall treatment outcome!
Pick up the tooth and determine if it’s a baby or adult tooth.
The first thing you should do when someone knocks out a tooth is to pick it up — the right way. Always pick the tooth up by its crown, or chewing surface, and avoid touching the root of the tooth. If the person whose tooth was knocked out is a child, determine if the tooth is a baby tooth or an adult tooth. Baby teeth are rarely reimplanted because doing so can interfere with the development and eruption of adult teeth in the future. If the tooth that was knocked out was a baby tooth, the child will still need to see an emergency dentist to examine the injury and come up with a treatment plan, so you may still want to take steps to preserve the tooth just in case.
Clean the tooth gently.
Once you’ve picked the tooth up, you should rinse it off with cool tap water to try and remove any debris from its surface. You might feel it’s dirty, but you should still avoid touching the root of the tooth or pulling anything off of it. Similarly, don’t try to scrub the tooth clean or use any sort of soap. All you need is water; it’s simple, fast, and it gets the job done! When you feel that you’ve rinsed the tooth off as well as you can, don’t dry it off; the tooth needs to stay moist.
Call the emergency dentist immediately.
You should call your dentist to schedule an emergency dental appointment immediately. You may even want to do so while you’re rinsing the tooth! Getting treatment quickly — ideally within 30 minutes of a tooth being knocked out — is essential to give the dentist the best chance of successfully reimplanting it. If the injury happens outside of the dentist’s normal operating hours, their website should have an emergency contact number you can use. This helps ensure you’ll be able to get an appointment right away.
Transport the tooth properly.
There are a few ways you can transport a tooth that’s been knocked out of its socket, but the best way is to put it back in the socket. You’ll need to hold the tooth in place by gently biting down on a piece of gauze or carefully holding it in place with a finger. If putting the tooth back in its socket isn’t possible, you can also transport it by putting the tooth between the gums and cheek or under the tongue, though this isn’t the best option for a young child. You can also immerse the tooth in a container of saliva belonging to the person who lost it, milk, or an over-the-counter product made for this purpose. Transporting the tooth properly this way can make all the difference, helping you get the tooth to the dentist in good condition.
Let your dentist know if you’ve used anything for pain.
Getting a tooth knocked out can hurt, so taking something for pain on the way to the emergency dentist is understandable. Once you get to your dentist’s office, however, don’t forget to tell the staff exactly what you or the patient you’re with has taken, even if it’s simply a home remedy like clove oil. Knowing this information can help the dentist decide what anesthetic to provide while they examine and treat the injury.
Follow your dentist’s instructions after the procedure.
If you need to get a tooth reimplanted, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to help prevent infections and will send you home with instructions for how to take care of the injured tooth. Make sure to follow these directions, as they can make all the difference in the long-term success of the tooth reimplantation. The area will be sore, but taking over-the-counter pain medications and sticking to soft foods for a few days can significantly reduce your discomfort.
You’ll need to return to your dentist’s office periodically over the long term to continue to check on the health of the tooth. The exact timeline may differ based on your unique case, but it’s generally recommended that you see your dentist again seven to 10 days after your initial procedure and again at the two-week, four-week, three-month, six-month, and year markers. From that point on, you’ll need to get the tooth examined during one of your yearly checkups to ensure it’s staying strong and healthy.
Dental emergencies don’t have to be a stressful ordeal.
Getting a tooth knocked out is never ideal, but it doesn’t have to be final. If you know how to handle dental trauma like a knocked-out tooth, you can play a role in saving the tooth. It might not be as cinematic as a movie hero brushing off a rough blow to finish a dramatic fight, but it could one day make a lasting impression on the health of your smile—or someone else’s!