Every year more than 5 million teeth are knocked out. The medical term for this is an “avulsed tooth,” and it’s one of the most severe dental emergencies for adult (permanent) teeth.
If you get a tooth knocked out, whether by injury or accident, don’t panic. With the right actions on your part, Murfreesboro Family Dentistry can have your smile back to normal in no time.
Teeth begin to die within 15 minutes of being knocked out. Dentists agree there is about a 30-minute window in which there is the best chance of saving an avulsed tooth. That is why it is essential to act quickly and get to your dentist, endodontist, or an emergency room as soon as possible.
When a tooth gets knocked out, the nerves, root, blood vessels, and supporting tissue around the tooth are damaged. Even though the nerves and blood vessels cannot be repaired, the bone may be able to reattach to the root of the tooth if it is put back into place properly.
Find and clean the tooth.
As soon as the injury occurs, carefully find the knocked out tooth. Only touch the tooth by the crown (white chewing surface). Never touch the root (inside) of the tooth that was under the gum; this will cause further damage.
If the tooth is dirty, hold it by the crown and gently place the tooth in a glass of milk. If you don’t have access to milk, gently rinse it in clean water. Never use soap or chemicals to clean the tooth.
Do not scrub or dry the tooth. In order to save the tooth and place it back in the mouth, it must stay moist. Don’t wrap the tooth in tissue, towel, or cloth.
If you cannot find the tooth or you only locate part of the tooth, you may have swallowed or inhaled it. You may need an X-ray to make sure the tooth is not lodged somewhere in your lungs.
Reposition the tooth if possible.
The best thing to do is try to put the tooth back in the socket as quickly as possible, as long as the tooth is intact and not cracked or broken. Without touching the root, gently push the tooth back into place with your finger or line it up above the socket then gently close your mouth.
Make sure the tooth is facing the right direction before you reinsert it. If several teeth were avulsed, make sure to reposition them in the correct places.
Hold the tooth in place by biting down gently or with your fingers until you arrive at the dentist or emergency room. Some people might find it more comfortable to bite down on a wet tea bag or wet gauze.
The tooth must stay damp at all times to remain alive. If you cannot reposition the tooth in the socket, there are a few other options.
One option is to gently keep the tooth in your mouth next to your cheek. This will allow it to stay in your saliva. Or gently place the tooth in a glass of milk. If at all possible, don’t store the tooth in water. The surface cells on the tooth will begin to die if stored in water for extended periods of time.
Children might have a difficult time keeping a tooth repositioned in the socket. It may be dangerous for young children to store a tooth in their cheek. Instead, have the child spit enough in a cup to cover the tooth or keep the tooth in milk.
There are also tooth preservation kits on the market. These kits are designed to keep the tooth from dying for up to 24 hours until it can be repaired and replanted. School nurses, athletic coaches, gyms, and parents of very active children might consider keeping one of these kits on hand should someone get their tooth knocked out.
Visit your dentist as quickly as possible.
The first thing your dentist will do is clean or flush out the socket to remove debris and assess the injury. They will also make sure you have no other dental or facial injuries.
Often the dentist will gently reposition the tooth in the socket and splint the tooth to the surrounding teeth with soft wire or composite material. You will probably need a root canal to repair an adult tooth that was knocked out or dislodged (pushed out of alignment).
What if a baby tooth gets knocked out?
If a child had a baby tooth knocked out, it is essential to visit the dentist to make sure the socket and bones are healthy, and there is no debris left in the gums. The dentist will decide whether to replant the baby tooth or just leave it out.
Many dentists don’t recommend replacing the baby tooth because of the risk of infection. This also prevents potential damage to the adult tooth that will grow in later. However, every situation is unique and it is important for a dentist to make a proper assessment as quickly as possible.
Prevention is the best strategy.
There are many causes for teeth getting knocked out, but sports injuries are among the most common causes for avulsed teeth. Wearing a mouthguard during sports is one of the easiest ways to prevent teeth from getting knocked out. An athlete is 60 times more likely to experience a severe dental injury if they are not wearing a mouthguard, according to the American Dental Association.
Whether you choose a custom made mouthguard or a “boil-and-bite” guard, it will add significant protection and should be worn during all contact sports.