How to Preserve a Tooth If It Gets Knocked Out
Here’s a fun fact: a knocked-out tooth is known in the dental world as an "avulsed" tooth. Unfortunately, that’s often the only fun thing about a knocked-out tooth. If this happens to you or a loved one and the tooth is permanent, you can take fast action to preserve it. Here’s what to do if you have a tooth knocked out.
Clean It (But Not Too Well)
If your tooth has dirt or other particles on it, you can’t really leave these on while transporting it. The goal is to clean the tooth, but not too well. You want to keep the tooth moist and maintain its pH as much as possible to prevent the cells at the top of the tooth from dying. This is accomplished by holding the tooth at its chewing surface to preserve the cells at the top of the tooth. Rinse the tooth with water or milk to clean it, but don’t use soap or any other type of cleanser.
Hold It In Place
Returning the tooth to its proper position and holding it in place is the best-case scenario for saving your tooth. This keeps the tooth in the proper position. You can place a piece of gauze or tea bag underneath the tooth to keep it in place, which can keep you from feeling as if you are "mashing" the tooth back into position.
If holding the tooth in place isn’t successful, you’ll need to keep the tooth moist. Start by placing it in a container and covering it with either saliva or whole milk, which has a pH similar to saliva. Another option is to hold the tooth in your mouth by placing it between your lower lip and gum or underneath your tongue.
Another preventive option is to keep a tooth-saving device in your first-aid kit or in your athletic equipment. This is an especially good idea if you engage in a sport that requires you to wear a mouthpiece because you are at an increased risk for dental trauma. Examples include Save-a-Tooth and EMT Tooth Saver, which contain a travel case and preservation fluid for an injured tooth.
When you are en route to your dentist’s office, there are a few steps you can take to minimize the pain and swelling that naturally accompany a knocked-out tooth. You can apply pressure via a piece of gauze to your tooth or apply a cold compress to shrink irritated blood vessels, reducing pain. Try not to disturb the tooth socket area, however. This is because you want to avoid disturbing the tooth roots, which your dentist will use for re-implantation.
Seek Immediate Dental Treatment
The sooner you seek dental treatment after you experience a knocked-out tooth, the better. A knocked-out tooth is an emergency situation, meaning if your injury didn’t occur during dentist’s office hours, you should visit an emergency room immediately. This is especially true if your injury is the result of a car accident that can cause trauma to your jaw and your mouth.
This is true even if your tooth hasn’t been completely knocked out. If you have a chipped tooth, you should seek dental treatment as well. Uneven dental surfaces can cut your lip, tongue or other delicate surfaces inside your mouth. Plus, hidden damage can lie under the surface of your teeth you may not be able to see or feel, says Joseph Payne, DDS, a dentist with a private practice in Chattanooga, Tenn.
"Chips can often be small and not that noticeable — but that doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous," Dr. Payne says. "If you have a chipped tooth, you can expose the dentin that is not resistant to decay like enamel is."
This means whatever the injury’s severity, if you experience trauma to your mouth, it’s best to seek dental treatment as quickly as possible.