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Dental Emergencies

Tooth Is Knocked Out

There are many reasons a tooth can be knocked out, including sports or activities, slips or falls, accidents, or other impacts to the face.

What to do

  • For serious trauma to the head, face or neck, get immediate medical attention or call 911 for a more rapid response.
  • If a tooth is completely displaced from the tooth socket, it's critical to contact your dentist immediately. Your dentist will give you guidance on how to handle the situation. The advice they provide will depend on several factors, including whether it is a primary or permanent tooth, or if it's a front tooth or back tooth. The longer a tooth is out of the socket, the less chance there is to save it. Most permanent teeth can be saved if treated by a dentist within an hour.
  • Before you visit the dentist, you should:
    • Retrieve the tooth if possible. Always hold it by the top, not the root.
    • Rinse the root of the tooth with clean water to remove any debris (do not use soap or other solutions).
    • Do not scrub it or remove any attached tissue.
    • If you are certain the tooth is a permanent (adult) tooth, try to place the tooth back in the socket within an hour. Replanting the tooth in its socket is the most important step in saving it, although it will require additional steps by a dentist or dental specialist. It is critical to remain calm for this step to avoid the risk of the tooth being swallowed or inhaled, as it can dramatically escalate the emergency and require immediate medical intervention.
    • If it is a primary (baby) tooth, or you are not sure, don't try to replace it in the tooth socket.
    • To replant a tooth:
      • Gently push the tooth into the proper position with your fingers, or position it above the socket, close your mouth slowly, and gently bite down on the tooth. Have someone assist you if necessary.
      • Hold the tooth in place with your fingers or tongue. This is usually not painful because the tooth's nerve supply will have already been severed.
      • If the tooth cannot be placed properly into the socket, keep it in your mouth if possible during travel to the dentist's office. Be extremely careful not to swallow or inhale it.
      • If you have the tooth, but cannot safely place it back in the tooth socket or keep it in the mouth during travel to the dentist's office, place the tooth in a container of milk. Ideally, place the tooth in Hank's balanced salt solution, which is a product that many athletic trainers keep on hand. Do not store the tooth in regular water unless it's the only alternative. Placing the tooth in water decreases the likelihood that the cells on the tooth's root will remain alive.

    For children

    There are several ways a child can lose a baby tooth before it is naturally pushed out by a permanent tooth. A tooth might be knocked out accidentally. If this occurs, it's important to contact your child's dentist immediately. In other cases, a tooth may need to be removed by a dentist if it becomes chipped, cracked, decayed, or otherwise damaged.

    Most often, a front tooth is knocked out. If there is a permanent tooth underneath the primary tooth, it may not be necessary to replace the missing baby tooth. Your dentist will determine if that is the case.

    If your child loses a primary back tooth before the adult tooth is ready to replace it, a gap will remain in your child's mouth. A missing back tooth may also make it more difficult to eat. This gap may need to be maintained (for example, with a space maintainer) to keep other teeth from shifting.

    If you know the tooth is a primary tooth, or if you're unsure, don't try to put it back in the socket.

Author: Symbyos staff, Fluent staff
Last updated: 2/22/2021Medical review: Thomas J. Greany DDS, 2/7/2021
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