Emergency Dental Treatment for a Knocked-Out Tooth? What to Do… What to Expect

Emergency dental treatment is vital in the case of a knocked-out tooth.

Would you believe that more than 5 million teeth are knocked out in a single year?! It’s not super-easy to knock out a tooth but it’s not necessarily difficult either. The good news is that if this happens to your child or to you, the tooth isn’t necessarily lost for good.

The technical term for a tooth that’s been knocked out is an “avulsed” tooth. When this happens, the nerves and blood vessels are damaged too. And in these cases, emergency dental treatment is required. All avulsed teeth will (at least eventually) need a root canal—whether your tooth can be saved or an implant is required. With your own tooth, if it can be saved, the bone can reattach to the root.

With proper emergency dental treatment, success in re-implanting a tooth that’s been knocked out is more common with children but is possible in many adult cases too. Important to note, however, is only permanent teeth should generally be re-implanted.

Summarily, though, with the right emergency dental care for a knocked out tooth, the tooth can sometimes be saved and re-implanted back in the mouth.

Below is what you need to know to save your – or your child’s – tooth that’s been knocked out of the mouth.

Keep in mind you need to get to the dentist within – or as close to – thirty minutes. So act fast!

Don’t pick a knocked out tooth up by the root.

Instead, pick it up by the crown. This is the top of the tooth—the surface that you use for chewing. Of course, this means you must locate the tooth. Be sure to not leave the scene of the accident without the tooth if possible.

Gently rinse the tooth or teeth with milk, ideally, or only water.

If you have milk available, drop the tooth in a glass for a moment. If you don’t have milk, being super careful to not drop the tooth down a drain or further damage it, give it a gentle rinse. It’s important to not use soap, do not scrub the tooth in any way at all, and do not wrap the tooth in tissue or cloth.

(Adults or Older Kids Only) Put the tooth back in the socket.

After you have rinsed the tooth or teeth, try to carefully position the tooth that was knocked out back in the socket. Again, don’t handle the root, just the crown. Use your fingertips to try and place it on top of the socket area where it was knocked from and hold it there with your hand or delicately close the bite to keep it in place.

Keep the tooth moist.

Adults: If you could reposition the tooth in the socket, you can keep the tooth wet by generating saliva in the mouth. Alternately, hold it in the mouth against the cheek. If you were not able to get it to stay in the mouth, or in the case of children, place it in a glass of milk. If you didn’t or don’t have milk, then put the tooth in a glass or cup and have the child spit as much saliva as possible into the cup.

There are even kits sold – such as the Save-a-Tooth kit – that can be kept handy specifically for preservation of a knocked out tooth. Try not to soak or transport the tooth in water – unless there is absolutely no other of the above options available – because that can damage the root quickly.

Again, see a dentist within 30 minutes.

With emergency treatment for a knocked out tooth, time is of the essence. While a tooth that’s been out of the mouth for more than an hour can be saved if the above tips and steps are followed, the quicker a dentist can attend to this type of dental emergency, the better.

Expect the dentist to try and re-implant the tooth.

Depending on the nature of the injury, the dentist will attempt, if possible, to re-implant the tooth. Considering the severity, the process may be relatively simple or extensive. In basic situations, he or she will irrigate the socket area with water. Then, a root canal may be done immediately or the dentist may wait.

Regardless, it will usually be splinted to the surrounding teeth with soft wire or a composite material. This will keep the tooth in its spot for several days. Your dentist will decide how long that will be. If the bone wasn’t broken, the root and tooth will often reattach in three to four weeks. If the damage was more extensive, that could take six to eight weeks.

A follow-up appointment will then be required – at the dentist’s discretion regarding exact time – around three months or so. If all looks good and there is no sign of infection, it may not require additional appointments and be re-examined only at regular appointments.

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