Accidents happen. If a tooth is knocked out, there are steps you can take to help make sure it survives.
Tips for How to Deal with Dental Emergencies
What you should do in a dental emergency depends on the type of crisis you face.
If a tooth is chipped or broken, follow these steps:
- Keep the pieces so you can take them to the dentist for repair
- Rinse your mouth with warm water to clean the area
- Call your dentist right away (most dentists keep some time in their days to deal with emergencies)
- Use cold packs on the area to keep swelling down
Knocked Out Tooth
If your tooth is knocked out, you will need dental care right away. Most dentists set aside time each day for this type of crisis. Call your dentist right away and give them as much detail as you can about what happened to your tooth. (If you have limited or no dental insurance, ask if the dentist has a payment plan.)
It’s possible in some cases to implant permanent teeth that have been knocked out. If the whole tooth has been knocked out, you must act with speed and care to increase the chance of saving the tooth.
If the tooth is put back in the socket within five minutes of being knocked out, there is a good chance the tooth can be saved. From five to 60 minutes, there is still a good survival rate as long as the tooth is stored properly. If a tooth is out of the mouth for more than 60 minutes, though, the chances it can be saved go down sharply.
If your tooth is knocked out, and not just chipped or broken, follow these steps right away (before you see a dentist):
- Confirm that it is an adult tooth (baby teeth are not re-implanted)
- Hold your tooth by the top or crown only, not by the roots
- If the tooth is dirty, rinse it for a short time in a bowl of tap water
- Don’t scrub the tooth or detach tissue from it, which may hurt the root and make the tooth less likely to survive
- If possible, gently insert and hold the tooth in its socket right away
- If it doesn’t go all the way into place, bite down slowly and gently on gauze or a moist tea bag to help keep it in place
- Never let the tooth dry out
- If you can’t replace your tooth, place it in some milk right away, or use your own saliva or a warm, mild mix of salt and water (1/4 teaspoon salt to 1 quart water)
- If you don’t have milk or saltwater solution, keep the tooth in your cheek
- Hold the tooth in place and/or keep it moist until you see your dentist
How to Prevent Dental Injuries
While you may be able to save a tooth that has been broken, chipped, or knocked out, prevention is, of course, the best strategy. A well made mouth guard can protect the teeth since it will help to pad the impact and disperse the forces. So, if you take part in contact sports or other physically taxing actions, wear a mouth guard, fitted by your dentist.
No matter what type of mouth guard you wear (ready-made, boil-and-bite, or custom-formed by a dentist), it can add a great deal of defense and should be used any time there is the chance of mouth injury.
See also: Tooth Bonding