There’s no dancing around it, in most cases, knocking out a tooth can be a frightening and painful experience. If this happens to you, you are not alone. According to the American Association of Endodontics, over five million teeth are knocked out every year in children and adults. Sports activities are the leading cause of a knocked-out tooth, but many also occur due to accidents.
But, it is important to understand that this is one of those dental emergencies where time is of the essence. The good news is that the tooth may not be totally lost. The faster you act, the higher the chance of your dentist being able to save it and it last safely in your mouth for many more years.
In this article, we’ve broken down exactly what to do if you knock out a tooth so that you can get back to smiling comfortably again.
Immediate Steps to Take With a Knock Out Tooth
Read over and remember the tooth-saving tips below that will enable you to keep your tooth in the best possible scenario until you can get to your dentist for emergency care.
If it’s a child who has had a tooth knocked out, the first thing to do is to determine if it is a baby tooth or an adult tooth. Baby teeth should not be reimplanted because it may damage the adult tooth that is growing behind it. But even if it is a baby tooth that is knocked out, the child should still be taken to see a dentist immediately to ensure no other hidden damage was done.
Pick Up the Tooth By the Crown (NOT the Root)
After the tooth is knocked out, you want to locate it immediately. It’s important to handle the tooth very carefully by only touching the larger end of it, which is known as the crown (the chewing surface). The root of the tooth should never be touched. It contains a very important fiber known as the periodontal ligament (PDL), which is necessary for the proper healing of a reimplanted tooth.
If Dirty, Gently Rinse the Tooth
It may sound less than appealing, but the best thing to do if the tooth is dirty is to lick it clean. Using your own saliva to clean it will help protect it. If you do not want to do that, use only water to gently rinse it off. It’s important not to use soap or chemicals. You also do not want to scrub or dry the tooth or wrap it in a cloth or tissue. These things could easily damage the tooth.
If Possible, Reposition the Tooth Back In Its Socket Immediately
If you can, try and put the tooth back into the socket right away. Hold the crown of the tooth and gently push it in. This is the best-case scenario and will be the best method of preserving the tooth until you can get to the dentist or endodontist as soon as possible.
Keeping the Tooth Moist at All Times is Critical
This is the most important thing to remember if you knock out a tooth. For it to be saved, the tooth has to stay moist at all times. If you can’t place it back in the socket, hold it in your mouth between your cheek and your teeth, put it in a cup of milk (yes milk!), or in a Save-a-Tooth® kit or other emergency tooth preservation kit. A child may not be able to safely hold the tooth in their mouth without swallowing it. So have them spit into a cup and store the tooth in the cup with the saliva until you can get to the dentist ASAP.
Do not store the tooth in regular tap water. The surface cells of the tooth’s root cannot tolerate this for an extended period.
See Your Dentist (or an Endodontist) Within 30 Minutes of the Incident
For the best chance at saving the tooth, you should see the doctor within 30 minutes of it being knocked out.
If you were able to reimplant the tooth back in its socket yourself, the dentist will examine it and take an x-ray to make sure it is in the correct position. If you were not able to put the tooth back in and have kept it moist and gone straight to the dentist, they will numb the empty socket and surrounding area, use water to flush any debris from the socket, and reimplant the tooth. An x-ray will then be taken to make sure that it’s in the correct position.
Once it is confirmed that the tooth is back in the socket in the correct position, the dentist will splint it to the adjacent teeth with a composite compound or wire for 2 to 8 weeks. Splinting is a technique that temporarily holds the tooth in place until the surrounding bone can reattach to the root of the tooth.
At some point during the time that the tooth is splinted, the dentist will do a root canal on the tooth. This is necessary for its long-term survival. When a tooth is knocked out, the blood vessels, nerves, and supporting tissues are also damaged. These blood vessels and nerves can’t be repaired, which is why any tooth that has been knocked out and reimplanted will need a root canal.
Any successful replantation of a knocked-out tooth will take time to heal properly. During this time, your dentist will evaluate the tooth at specific intervals during the healing process to ensure everything is going well.
The Importance of Quick Action
It is critical to act fast when you knock out a tooth. Teeth, especially the root, are made of delicate cells that are not meant to be exposed to the dry air.
If the tooth is reimplanted into the socket within five minutes of it being knocked out, it stands the best chance of surviving. If it’s put back in within between 5 and 60 minutes, the tooth still has a good survival rate as long as it has been stored properly. If the tooth has been out of the mouth for over 60 minutes, the chances of survival decrease significantly.
Help Prevent the Chances of Knocking Out a Tooth
What we’ve covered above are the best methods for saving a tooth that has been knocked out. But prevention is the absolute best strategy. Of course, some accidents are unavoidable. But when playing sports or participating in other high-impact activities, there are some things you can do to significantly reduce the chance of a knocked-out tooth. The top is wearing a mouthguard.
According to the American Dental Association, you are 60 times more likely to suffer dental injuries when playing sports and not wearing a mouthguard. A fitted mouthguard can greatly protect the teeth by cushioning any impact and dispersing its force.
Getting a custom-made mouthguard is the best way to protect your teeth. This involves the dentist taking a mold of your teeth, which will then be used to make a mouthguard that fits well and offers the highest level of impact protection.
Another type of mouthguard that is available is known as a “boil and bite” mouthguard. But these will not be as good as one made by your dentist. The boil and bite mouthguards are molded by heating them up and then biting into them. This type of mouthguard is often uncomfortable to wear and will not provide the same level of protection that a custom-made mouthguard will.
Radomile Family Dental Care is Here to Help If You Knock Out a Tooth
If you have knocked out a tooth and follow the steps we covered above, the chances are high that the tooth can be reimplanted. Make sure to contact our team here at Radomile Family Dental Care as soon as possible to come in and see one of our dentists. We’re here for you when a dental emergency happens! Call us at 610-580-2081.