Whether it’s your own tooth or your child’s, it’s hard not to panic when you’re dealing with a knocked out tooth. You may be surprised to learn that if the proper steps are taken, it’s very easy for us to place the tooth back into the socket and repair the damage, but acting quickly is crucial. Here are the steps to take to save a tooth that’s been knocked out.
1. Find the Tooth, But Don’t Touch the Root
First thing’s first: take action to stop any bleeding from the mouth. Rinse with water, then use a washcloth or piece of gauze soaked in cold water as a compress; bite down to hold it in place and control bleeding. If the tooth has fallen onto the ground or another surface, it’s important to grab it by the crown (the portion above the gum line), not the root.
Sometimes, a tooth falls out in pieces. In this case, locate every fragment you can find. Again, do not touch the root.
2. Rinse the Tooth
Even if the tooth has fallen out onto a surface that appears to be clean, it needs to be rinsed to remove particles of dust and bacteria. If you have saline rinse on hand, use that. Otherwise, use dairy milk or, as a last resort, tap water.
The key here is to rinse, not wash. If you’re using water from the tap, use a small stream of water without a lot of pressure. While rinsing, continue holding the tooth by the crown only. You don’t need to scrub or even rub the tooth; a brief rinse is sufficient.
3. Put the Tooth Back in the Socket
It might make you feel a little bit squeamish, but if you can, insert the tooth back into the socket. In most cases, this shouldn’t cause pain and it’s the best way to protect the tooth until you can get to our office. Make sure it’s facing in the right direction before doing so, and once it’s in, continue to gently bite down on a compress to hold it in place.
4. Protect the Tooth If You Can’t Put It Back
If trying to place the tooth back into the socket is painful or if soft tissue damage makes it impossible, you’ll need to keep the tooth from drying out by placing it in a small cup of milk. It’s not an old wives’ tale––milk really does protect teeth that have been knocked out. It has a similar chemical composition as saliva. When milk isn’t available, place the tooth inside your cheek or spit into a small cup and put the tooth in there.
5. Call Us Right Away
Once you have the situation under control, call us for an emergency appointment. We will see you as soon as possible and do everything we can to save your tooth. A root canal is usually needed, but in most cases, your natural tooth can be put back into place and any soft tissue damage can be repaired.
A Word About Baby Teeth
What happens if a baby tooth is knocked out? When this happens, your primary objectives are to calm the child down and stop any bleeding by using a cool, wet compress, as described above. There’s no need to locate and rinse the tooth that’s been knocked out; primary teeth are not put back in when they come out accidentally. If your child is close to the age when the tooth would fall out naturally, it won’t be replaced. For younger children, a space maintainer is often necessary to keep the space open for the permanent tooth to erupt.
Even though it’s less serious when a baby tooth is knocked out, it’s still important to make an appointment with us so we can assess the damage.