Avulsed (“knocked out”) teeth are a common dental emergency. It most frequently occurs due to accidents — such as slipping in a bathtub — or during recreational sports like football, baseball, basketball, etc. The good news is that if you act fast, you might be able to re-implant the tooth and save it altogether.
Here’s exactly what you need to do…
Find The Tooth
If at all possible, locate your tooth or missing tooth fragments. Check to see if the tooth was knocked out as a whole, or in sections. Larger fragments of tooth structure may be possible to bond back in place with dental cement, but only if you store them properly and bring them straight to the dentist’s office.
Make Sure It’s Clean
Before a knocked out tooth can be put back into the socket, it needs to be clean. However, do not scrub the tooth as you can damage (or remove) the microscopic fibers that aid in reinsertion. Instead, gently rinse away any visible debris. No matter how tempted you are to rub the tooth clean, do not do it.
Reinsert It In Your Mouth
A clearly avulsed tooth can sometimes be placed immediately back into the socket in which it was knocked out of. In the ideal situation, this is the best case scenario. Don’t force the tooth in and cause more damage, but if you can slip it back into place, by all means, do so.
Otherwise, you will need to…
Store The Tooth Appropriately
The best place to store a tooth is in your own saliva. For an adult who is careful not to swallow the tooth, you can set it just inside of your cheek to keep it moisturized. If you’re afraid of accidentally swallowing it or it’s your child with the knocked out tooth, put it into a sealed container with milk. Contact solution or saline is also acceptable. Tap water is ok, but it’s not the ideal choice.
Get To The Dentist ASAP
The faster you can seek dental care, the better. Clinical studies suggest that if a tooth is professionally re-implanted by your dentist within the first 1-2 hours, you have a higher chance of being able to save the tooth altogether. Call your dentist immediately to let them know you’re on your way.
Your dentist will position the tooth appropriately and splint it into place as it heals. This might involve using some type of a brace or cement to bond the tooth next to the neighboring ones. The tooth may one day need a root canal if it starts to show evidence of a dying nerve.
Can’t Save The Tooth? Replace It In A Timely Manner
Going a few months without a tooth can make your other teeth start to lean or shift out of the correct position. If you’ve had braces, all of that time in orthodontic work could have been for nothing. The lack of a tooth can also lead to shrinkage (resorption) in the bone, weakening your overall bite.
The best way to avoid these concerns is to replace your missing tooth as quickly as possible. Common treatment options include dental implants, a fixed bridge, or even a removable flipper.
Watch For Infection
A knocked out tooth can carry any type of bacteria or pathogens that it was exposed to when it fell on the ground. Your dentist may want to put you on an antibiotic to reduce your risk of infection or rejection of the re-implanted tooth. Keep an eye out for signs of redness, swelling, bleeding, or tenderness in the gums around your tooth.
It may be necessary to see your dentist for follow-up exams to monitor your recovery. X-rays are also beneficial to inspect the root of the tooth, screening for resorption (shrinkage) which would indicate that your body is rejecting the tooth after it was re-implanted.
Paying For Emergency Dental Work
If you don’t have dental insurance through your workplace, you might be tempted to put off your tooth replacement. A great alternative to consider is a California discount dental plan or a private indemnity insurance policy through Cal Dental Plans. Our custom dental insurance plans can help you save 10-60% on treatments like emergency services and restorations. Contact us today to learn how!