Sometimes teeth get knocked out. Maybe you said the wrong thing to the wrong person. It happens! Maybe you were playing sports without a mouthguard (a no-no) and your face caught an elbow. Maybe you learned the hard way that a few pieces left over after you assembled the family trampoline were actually pretty critical. At any rate your tooth is on the floor. What do you do? Remember these key points if you ever get a tooth knocked out.
1. Don’t panic, remove yourself from any possible danger first and foremost.
2. Identify if it was a primary or permanent tooth. If it was a primary tooth (baby tooth), whatever you do, don’t put it back in! You will do more harm than good. If it was a permanent tooth, keep reading.
3. Find the tooth, don’t touch the root, and wash it off. Water for a few seconds is okay.
4. If possible, replant the tooth. If there’s any chance that the tooth is fixable, the odds are greatly increased by getting the tooth back into the socket as soon as possible. Position the tooth as best you can, and bite on a rag for a few minutes. Get a friend to help, too, for crying out loud.
Occasionally, replanting the tooth will not be an option. One reason could be that it is not physically possible to put it back into the socket due to other trauma sustained in the area. In these cases, there are several possibilities depending on what is available. If the person who lost the tooth is cooperative and conscious, having them store the tooth in their mouth is a great choice. Milk and spit are also options, but never consider storing the tooth in water. If you happen to have some sophisticated supplies available, Hanks Balanced Storage medium and saline are superior choices. If you’re a coach for a youth sports team, consider getting your hands on some of these items and adding them to your first aid kit if they aren’t there already. You might be a tooth hero one day!
5. Contact a dentist as soon as possible, especially if replanting is not possible. If you are not capable of replanting the tooth, perhaps your dentist is. This is a great reason to have an established relationship with a dentist should a need like this arise.
6. Prepare for a root canal in about two weeks. Most teeth that get completely knocked out require a root canal within seven to ten days. It’s the best way to ensure the long term health of the tooth.
7. Tetanus. If your tooth fell on the ground outside, and you aren’t sure of your Tetanus booster status, find out from your physician as soon as possible, as Tetanus is a very serious condition.
Teeth being completely knocked out typically happens in the front, and fixing dental problems in the front always presents aesthetic challenges. Dentists take trauma cases and replanting cases very seriously, especially in children, because fixing an anterior cosmetic dental problem in a child is much more complex and time consuming that treating an adult. If the tooth can be saved, the world is a happier place. If the tooth can’t be saved, the treatment plan typically involves removing the tooth and placing something temporary until the child is old enough for a dental implant. Temporary restorations in teenagers aren’t easy to make or maintain for several years! This is why everything possible must be done when a child loses a permanent tooth.
Prevention is the key here, and prevention starts with adult supervision and wearing athetlic mouthguards. Nothing beats a custom mouthguard, which your dentist can make for you. Considering the high cost of replacing missing teeth (in the thousands), the price of a custom mouthguard (in the hundreds) seems like a worthwhile investment.