Dealing with a Knocked-Out Tooth
The oft-repeated mom mantra – “Oh sure, it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye!” – could just as easily apply to a tooth. If your child’s tooth is knocked out, whether on the playground or the playing field, don’t panic. Follow these simple steps to ensure the restoration of that picture-perfect smile:
If It’s a Baby Tooth …
Save it for the Tooth Fairy. Trying to reattach a baby tooth can have disastrous consequences for the permanent tooth growing behind it, pediatric dentists say. If bleeding from the mouth occurs where the tooth has dislodged, have your child bite down on a piece of clean gauze. Keep the gauze in place and avoid moving it repeatedly.
If It’s a Permanent Adult Tooth …
When an adult tooth is knocked out, the goal is to have a dentist implant the original tooth back into the mouth. Here’s what to do:
• Bring the tooth to a dentist as quickly as possible and in a solution that protects the tooth (preferably milk). Penny Resnick Graulich, DMD, estimates that there’s approximately a 90 percent chance of the tooth being re-implanted and stabilized if the child arrives at the dentist with the tooth within one hour. As more time passes, this percentage decreases as the cells in the root of the tooth die.
• To keep the tooth in an ideal environment while en route to a dentist, a brave parent might try to put the tooth back into place inside the child’s mouth. The American Dental Association (ADA) suggests gently inserting and holding the tooth in its socket in the mouth. But keep in mind that this could cause a choking hazard, particularly in a younger child or one who is crying or very upset over the loss of the tooth. Kavita Kohli, DMD, does not recommend trying to insert the tooth. Having seen teeth put in upside down or backward by well-intentioned parents, Kohli recommends letting a trained pediatric dentist handle it.
• Use milk, not water as a solution in which to transport the tooth. Water should not be used because it will dehydrate the tooth. And while your first instinct after watching your child’s tooth fall into the dirt might be to give it a scrub in the sink, don’t do it! While the ADA does suggest quickly rinsing off any dirt or debris from a tooth that may have fallen to the ground, Resnick Graulich notes that using water to really scrub a tooth may make it impossible to reattach, since the goal is to “maintain the vitality” of the tooth until a dentist can be reached.
• Head to a pediatric dentist, if possible, since these health professionals often have the most experience re-implanting teeth and in dealing with children who are in pain or upset. Many dentists will come in after hours for an emergency, so they are still the best people to contact to avoid a long wait in the ER. If a dentist can’t be reached, try an oral surgeon or an emergency room that offers dental services.
• If a knocked-out tooth cannot be found, or you don’t make it to the dentist in time to save the tooth, your child may need a tooth implant. While an implant (or artificial tooth) may seem scary, Resnick Graulich stresses that implants are highly successful and not to worry.
So if your child suffers an injury to his pearly whites, get the tooth, keep it in a milk solution and head to the dentist immediately. If done quickly, the tooth can be re-implanted and your child will be back to the playground in no time.
Sarah Niss is a freelance writer.