Your teeth can bite, chomp and much more. But they’re not invincible. An unexpected bump, bash or other impact can knock any of your teeth right out of your mouth. Losing a tooth can be a shocking experience, but a few simple steps can dramatically improve the chances of a great recovery. Here’s what you need to know:
What Should I Do Immediately After Losing a Tooth?
Don’t panic. If you were in an accident, first make sure the situation is safe and nobody is seriously injured. But once the situation is stable, you’ll want to act relatively quickly. Start by locating the knocked-out tooth or, if appropriate, all the fragments you can find.
Don’t just start picking up tooth pieces. If possible, first get a container of clean water. Also, make sure your hands are relatively clean.
How Do I Safely Touch the Tooth?
When handling a knocked-out tooth, only touch the white part, which is the enamel. Avoid touching the roots as much as possible.
As gently as possible, swish the tooth in the water. Rinse away as much dirt and debris as you can. Once rinsed, avoid drying or wrapping the tooth with any type of material. Cloth can scrape the enamel and damage the roots.
How Do I Store a Knocked-Out Tooth?
Your next stop is a visit with a dental professional. But first you’ll want to prepare the tooth for transport. There are a few ways to safely store a knocked-out tooth:
- Inside Your Mouth: The best place to store a knocked-out tooth is actually back in your mouth. First, use water to rinse out the empty socket (and make sure the tooth is clean, too). Then place the tooth back in its socket facing the correct direction. If possible, use gauze to help hold the tooth in place. Only store a tooth this way if it’s in one piece and the socket is undamaged. Another storage option is in the side of your mouth between your gum and cheek. This works well if the tooth has broken into fragments or your gums have been damaged.Only adults should store missing teeth or fragments in their mouth. Children run the risk of accidental swallowing. Also, adults shouldn’t store teeth in their mouth if they’ve been in an accident or otherwise might be impaired, drowsy or injured.
- In a Glass of Milk: If the mouth option isn’t workable, the other option is to store the tooth in a glass of whole milk. This helps keep the roots in good condition, which improves the chances of successful reinsertion into the socket. Baby formula is an acceptable alternative to whole milk. Don’t store a loose tooth in tap water. Roots can become damaged. If storing a tooth in your mouth isn’t possible, and no whole milk is available, store the tooth in a container with as much of your own saliva as possible. Only use your own saliva.
Where Do I Go Next? (And How Fast Should I Get There?)
Ideally, you want to be seen by a dentist within a half-hour. That’s the best case, easiest-to-treat scenario. Six hours is about the latest you have before root death and others problems will become an issue.
While visiting your regular dentist is great if he or she is available, basically any dental professional you can reach quickly should be able to help. Once the situation is stabilized, you might need follow up care with an endodontist, which is a dental specialty focused on traumatic dental injuries.
How are Knocked Out Teeth Treated?
Treatments will vary based on the specific damage. However, root canals and splints are two common treatment methods. Healing typically takes between three to eight weeks. Checkups will be required during the healing process so your dentist can make sure the tooth is reattaching properly to the bone and no infections or other issues are developing.
Of course, you don’t want a knocked-out tooth to knock you out financially, too. Emergency dental care involves unexpected dental bills. But those dental care costs can often be reduced with a dental discount plan. For an annual fee, plan members are eligible for discounts between 10% and 60% on a wide variety of dental services including emergency dental treatments and follow-up care. With over 110,000 participating dental professionals nationwide, a dental discount card can help you out no matter where your injury occurs.
A knocked-out tooth is an important, serious issue – but your chances of a successful recovery are usually pretty good. Don’t panic, handle the tooth gently, store it properly and seek out a dentist as soon as possible. Professional care, along a dental discount card to help keep that care affordable, are sure to have you smiling again!