While we all experienced losing teeth as a right of passage through childhood, losing a tooth as an adult is no fun at all, especially when it’s the result of an accident. If you should ever be unfortunate enough to have a tooth knocked out, a little knowledge about what to do can go a long way in preventing long-term damage to your smile.
Of course, one of the first things you should do if your tooth gets knocked out is making an emergency dentist appointment. However, depending on where and when your accident happened, it may be hours before you’ll actually be in the dentist’s chair. There is a good chance that the dentist will be able to put it back in place regardless, but only if you follow a few vital steps between the accident and your arrival at the dentist’s office.
Your primary goal after your tooth has come out is to keep the tooth alive, which means making sure the tooth root remains moist and as undamaged as possible. The tooth root is the tissue that provides blood flow and nutrients to the tooth. If these tissues dry out they can die, which makes it much harder for the dentist to put it back in its socket successfully.
First, you should try to immediately fit the tooth back in its socket. If you manage to get the tooth back in place, you can bite down on gauze or a wet tea bag to keep in there until you get to your emergency dentist appointment. If you can’t get the tooth back in its socket, you’ll need to use other means to keep it safe.
If the knocked-out tooth has dirt or debris on it, rinse it off using tap water or bottled water. Always hold the tooth by the crown (opposite end as the root) and don’t touch the root, as this may damage it. Do not brush the tooth or try to sterilize or clean it with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. These things will do more harm than good.
Next, to keep the tooth moist you need to put it either cow’s milk, or if milk isn’t available, put it in saliva. You can also keep the tooth in your mouth, either under your tongue or between your gums and your cheek. But be careful not to swallow it! Don’t put the tooth in water to keep it moist. Water is not as gentle as milk or saliva and can cause damage to the cells in the tooth root. Once you get to your emergency dentist appointment, the dentist will take care of sterilizing the tooth in a way that doesn’t risk damaging it.
The dentist will assess the damage to your tooth and your mouth and determine the best way to proceed. Usually, this involves cleaning the area and the tooth and gently inserting it back into its socket. Sometimes the dentist will apply a splint to keep the tooth in position as it heals back into place. This splint resembles braces and will usually be in place for 1-2 weeks.
The biggest thing to remember when a tooth gets knocked out is that it can be put back if you follow the right steps! Be sure to call your dentist for an emergency dentist appointment right away and your smile should be back to normal in no time.
Please note: If your injuries could be life-threatening, contact emergency medical services right away and worry about the dentist later!
Bonus fact: The clinical term for a knocked-out tooth is an avulsed tooth.
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