As parents, we quickly become skilled at caring for the bumps, bruises, and scrapes that are part and parcel of having kids. We know what to do when our child has a cut––wash it off, maybe put a little Neosporin on it, and apply a kid-friendly bandage. But what if your child knocks out a tooth? Do you know what to do then?
Well, first: don’t panic. Stay calm, think clearly, and rest assured that it will be fine. Here’s what to do.
What to Do for a Knocked Out Baby Tooth
Although it certainly looks scary––and your child is probably completely panicked––a knocked out baby tooth is rarely a serious problem. Baby teeth don’t have long roots holding them in place like adult teeth do, which means they’re easier to knock out. This also means that when they do come out, they’re less likely to cause serious damage to soft tissue in the mouth.
Typically, we don’t replace baby teeth that have been knocked out, so you don’t have to worry about getting down on your hands and knees to find it. Have your child rinse his or her mouth with water, then use a clean, cold wet washcloth or piece of gauze as a compress to stop the bleeding and reduce any swelling. Ask your child to bite down on the washcloth or gauze to hold it in place.
When you have the bleeding under control (and when your child has calmed down), call our office for an emergency appointment. We’ll examine the area to make sure there’s no soft tissue damage that needs to be repaired. For younger children, we will often use a space maintainer to keep other teeth from shifting into the open spot, which can cause issues when the adult tooth is ready to erupt. With older children, we may opt to leave it be if we suspect the adult tooth will be emerging soon.
What to Do for a Knocked Out Adult Tooth
When it’s an adult tooth that has been knocked off, you do need to find the tooth, if possible. Our goal is to put the natural tooth back in place, rather than resorting to an artificial replacement. Once you locate the tooth, grab it by the crown-end (don’t touch the root) and rinse it with milk to remove any debris or dust. Do not scrape or scrub it clean, that will remove the cells on the root that are needed for proper healing.
The following are the 3 ways you can save the tooth until you can get to the dentist. It is very important to keep the tooth wet with saliva and get the adult tooth back into the socket as quickly as possible. If the tooth is not put back into the socket within one hour, it is very likely that your child will lose that tooth permanently!
- If your child will let you, try to gently push the tooth back into the socket once you’ve cleaned it. When it’s back in place, have them bite down on a compress (folded napkin/cloth) to keep the tooth in the socket until you can make it to our office.
- If this isn't possible, put the tooth in a cup of milk to bring to us ASAP. (Milk has a similar chemical composition as saliva, which is why this is recommended. It’s not an old wives’ tale!)
- If you cannot put the tooth back into the socket and you don't have a cup of milk, then the final option is to put the tooth in the mouth tucked between the gums and the lip. This will keep it wet with saliva until you can get to our office and we can place it back into the socket. I know this sounds gross! But, the alternative is losing the adult tooth permanently which can be very costly and traumatic.
Call us to schedule an emergency visit and we will see you as soon as possible. The good news is that with prompt care, it's likely that the permanent tooth can be reattached.