Knocked-Out Tooth First Aid Tips

Whether you’ve experienced a sports injury or a painful accident, having your tooth knocked out (aka an avulsed tooth) can be one of the most serious dental emergencies you will experience.

But not all hope is lost. There is a good chance the damage can be fixed by a dentist, but you must act quickly.

If your tooth gets knocked out, here are the steps to take to improve your chances of saving your tooth and minimizing damage.

Steps to Take If Your Tooth Is Knocked Out

To help improve the chances of keeping your tooth, follow these steps:

Locate the Tooth Immediately

Look for your tooth the moment you notice it’s missing. Do not leave it at the site of the accident.

Pick up the tooth by the crown (the chewing surface), being careful to touch the crown of the tooth only and not the root (the bottom part of the tooth that was under the gum) as the root can be easily damaged.

Do not put the tooth in your pocket or purse. Instead, keep it tucked inside your cheek.

Rinse the Tooth

While holding the tooth by the crown, gently rinse off the tooth with milk or saline solution. And if you don’t have either, use water.

Do not wipe, scrub, or dry the tooth or try to remove any fleshy parts. And do not touch the root at any point or wrap the tooth in cloth or tissue.

Reposition the Tooth in its Socket

Young children should have a dentist examine their mouths before reinserting a tooth. Otherwise, try to gently place the clean tooth back in the right position in the empty socket as soon as possible so there will be a better chance of having the ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels reattach and heal.

Gently push the tooth in with your fingers, only holding the crown, or position the tooth above the socket and close your mouth slowly. Hold the tooth in place with your fingers or by gently biting down.

You will know it’s in the right place if you can bite your teeth together normally afterward.

If you have trouble doing this, e.g., the tooth won’t go back into place easily, don’t try to force it. Instead, keep it in a safe liquid until you get to your dentist.

Keep the Tooth Moist

Along with not touching the root, you must also not let the tooth dry out. A dry tooth will have little success in being replanted. So if you can’t place it back into the socket, store it in a pH-balanced liquid for up to an hour before replanting it.

Safe liquids include cold milk, saliva, and saline solution. Only use water if you have no other options.

If you don’t have any way of storing the tooth in liquid, place the tooth in your mouth between the gum and cheek.

See Your Dentist within 30 Minutes

To increase the likelihood of saving your tooth, see your dentist as soon as possible and ideally within an hour after losing the tooth.

The Importance of Acting Quickly

Can you save a knocked-out tooth? If you act quickly, you can increase the chances of saving your tooth.

Knocked-out tooth treatment is more likely to save a tooth if it is performed within an hour of the accident.

What Your Dentist Will Do to Save Your Tooth

If you keep your tooth in liquid, your dentist will numb the area and use water to flush out debris from the empty socket before trying to re-implant the tooth. And if you re-implant the tooth before arriving at your dentist’s office, your dentist may take an x-ray to make sure that the tooth is positioned correctly.

Since the nerves, blood vessels, and supporting tissue are damaged when a tooth is knocked out, an avulsed tooth will also likely need a root canal. The bone can then reattach to the tooth once put back into place.

Your dentist can splint the tooth on either side with a composite material or a soft wire, so it doesn’t fall out or get swallowed while you sleep. While splinted, your tooth will have a chance to heal.

It will take around three to four weeks for the tooth root to reattach to the bone if the bone around the tooth wasn’t fractured during the accident. But if there was damage to the surrounding area, then it can take up to eight weeks for the tooth to firmly reattach and heal.

Your dentist will examine the tooth in three to six months, and again in two to three years to ensure that the tooth was re-implanted successfully.

What Happens If the Tooth Cannot Be Saved?

Only permanent (adult) teeth should be re-implanted. And if the tooth is intact, you should try to save it.

But if it’s broken or too much time has passed since it got knocked out, then you won’t be able to save it. Instead, you will need to replace it, either with:

  •  A dental implant—a permanent replacement tooth made of a titanium screw implanted in the jaw bone and an artificial crown placed on top;
  • A bridge—an artificial tooth that is cemented to the teeth on either side; or,
  • A denture—a removable false tooth that you will have to take out every night and clean.

Treatment for an avulsed tooth is possible, especially if you act quickly and follow the knocked-out tooth first aid tips mentioned above. And if you can’t save your tooth, there are other options for restoring a lost tooth. So don’t hesitate to visit your dentist as soon as possible if your tooth gets knocked out.