In the United States, an estimated 5 million teeth are knocked out every year. Knocked out teeth are most common in children, and accidents and sports injuries are the most likely causes. Teeth that are lost to decay or gum disease cannot be saved, but approximately 90 percent of healthy, knocked out teeth can be successfully reattached. Here’s what you need to do if your child knocks out a tooth.
The tooth has tiny roots and nerve fibers that must remain intact, so how you handle the tooth can determine whether it can be saved. Grab the tooth by the chewing surfaces, being especially careful not to disturb the root end.
Wipe or Rinse
If possible, gently rinse the tooth under running water. If not, then use your hands to carefully wipe away surface dirt from the chewing surfaces, taking care to avoid the root. Do not apply toothpaste, soap, or any cleanser, and do not use any tools such as a rag or a toothbrush.
Put the Tooth in the Mouth
If your child is old enough to understand what to do, gently push the tooth into its socket or place it between the cheek and gums. Do not allow your child to eat or drink anything, which could damage the tooth or even cause her to accidentally swallow it.
Use Milk or a Specialized Solution
If the child is too small to hold the tooth in his mouth, or if severe oral trauma is present, submerge the tooth in a glass of milk. Specialized, pH-balanced dental solution is another option, but time is of the essence, so it is rarely practical to find this solution. Many dentists keep it on hand to extend the lifespan of knocked out teeth that arrive in their offices.
Never submerge the tooth in water. This could permanently damage the root, making it impossible to save the tooth.
Visit the Dentist Immediately
Saving a tooth is most likely to succeed when it is reattached within the first 30 minutes after it is knocked out. It is worth making the attempt, though, even after an hour or more, especially if the tooth is in the person’s mouth. Emergency dentists are available 24/7, 365 days per year, so if your regular dentist’s office is closed, head straight for the closest emergency dentist.
Although knocked out teeth can be scary, they are extremely common and have an excellent chance for a successful resolution. Follow the tips above and see the dentist immediately. Follow up within a few days with your child’s regular dentist to ensure that everything is progressing as it should.