“My front tooth got knocked out. What do I do?”

For those who’ve knocked a tooth out before, this was probably your first thought. In our day-to-day lives, many hazards can lead to a knocked-out tooth, such as sports, accidents, or other contact injuries. Athletes especially deal with sports-related dental injuries, with damage ranging from a minor chip to a tooth being lost.

Until you arrive at your emergency dentist appointment, you’ll need to preserve the tooth for as long as you can. Take these tips into consideration so you can save your knocked-out tooth.

What To Do When a Tooth Is Knocked Out

A knocked-out tooth can quickly become a dental emergency. With the right preventative measures, your dentist can re-implant your tooth as if it was never knocked out in the first place. Once you locate the tooth itself, you’ll need to follow some important guidelines as you handle it with your fingers. Follow these tooth-saving steps:

  1. Handle by the Crown: Never pick up the tooth by the root. Rather, only carry the tooth by the chewing surface side and handle it very gently. This will prevent any extra bacteria from accumulating on the root side of the tooth.
  2. Rinse Gently with Water: If you need to rinse any dirt off the tooth, only use water instead of chemicals or soap. You also shouldn’t scrub, dry, or wrap the tooth in a tissue.
  3. Keep the Tooth Wet: The knocked-out tooth must stay wet at all times. If you can’t replace it in its original socket in your mouth, put it in milk, saliva, or in your mouth next to your cheek. Avoid using regular tap water to soak the tooth since this will only damage any root surface cells.
  4. Reposition the Tooth: If you can place the tooth back in its socket, it’s best to do so immediately. Grip the tooth by the crown side and gently push it in with your fingers, or position the tooth above its socket and bite down gently. Until you arrive at the dentist, you should hold the tooth in place by gently biting on it or using your fingers.
  5. Visit your Dentist: It’s best to visit your dentist within 30 minutes from when the tooth was knocked out. However, some teeth can still be saved for an hour or more if preserved correctly.

Handling the tooth correctly and doing your best to keep it moist will help to preserve it for a longer amount of time.

Why Time Is of the Essence

Fortunately, if you act quickly enough, a knocked-out tooth can be re-implanted successfully with minimal complications. The best way to save the tooth is by getting to the dentist as soon as possible. The amount of time between when the tooth was knocked out to when you arrive at the dentist will determine whether your tooth survives or not.

Replacing the tooth into its socket within five minutes of it being knocked out means that the tooth is likely to survive. There continues to be a good survival rate between five and 60 minutes as long as the tooth is being stored properly. Once the tooth has been out of the mouth for more than an hour, the chances of it surviving decrease significantly.

What Do You Do When a Baby Tooth Is Knocked Out?

It may be scary to see baby teeth fall out, especially if the front teeth are knocked out completely. However, unlike adult teeth which are permanent, baby teeth are only temporary. Therefore, it’s less of a traumatic event if one is knocked out. Baby teeth are not re-implanted since they are meant to fall out at some time or another so the adult teeth can grow in afterward.

If a baby tooth is ever knocked out, it’s vital that you do not push it back into its socket. Because baby teeth usually fall out anyway, forcing the tooth back into the socket will only cause damage to the adult tooth growing underneath it.

If you’re unsure whether the knocked-out tooth was a baby or an adult tooth, it’s best to keep it moist and visit the dentist so they can determine whether it needs to be re-implanted or not. Your dentist will also examine for any damage to the root, nerves, or gums surrounding the area where the baby tooth fell out.

What Does the Dentist Do with a Knocked-Out Tooth?

For emergency dentistry like a knocked-out tooth, your dentist will re-implant the tooth. If you bring the tooth in saliva or milk, your dentist will clean it before replacing it back into your mouth. Afterward, they fix the tooth by splinting it to the teeth surrounding it. The splint must be left for two to eight weeks before being removed.

Once the splint has been removed, keep in mind that root canal procedures or other preventative measures may be necessary for the tooth to survive long term. Fortunately, with proper care and daily oral hygiene, your tooth should remain healthy and strong long-term.

What If the Tooth Can’t Be Saved?

Sometimes, a knocked-out tooth can’t be saved. You may not be able to find the tooth after it was knocked out, or it may not have been preserved correctly to be re-implanted. Whatever the case, there are alternative treatment plans.

Most dentists will recommend replacing the knocked-out tooth with a false tooth. This will decrease the chance of any infections forming in the empty socket. Your dentist may also recommend other treatment options, such as dental implants or dental bridge treatment, to fix any empty gaps from a lost tooth. A dental implants procedure is a great solution in replacing the missing tooth.

Protecting Your Teeth to Prevent a Knocked-Out Tooth

No one can predict when an accident or contact injury will occur. Instead, the best way to prevent a knocked-out tooth is by protecting your teeth from the get-go. Many athletes who play contact-heavy sports are at a larger risk for a mouth injury, so they should wear mouthguards. A properly made mouthguard can fully protect your teeth from impact by cushioning and dispersing any force.

There are many types of mouthguards that athletes can try—boil-to-bite, ready-made, or even custom-formed-and-fitted by your dentist. Overall, mouthguards provide a huge amount of protection for your teeth and should be used to avoid any mouth injuries from sports.