We refer to a knocked-out tooth as an “avulsed” tooth. This is one of the most serious dental emergencies, but the damage isn’t necessarily permanent. If you act quickly, there’s a good chance the tooth can be saved.
What You Can Do
When a tooth has been knocked out, the nerves, blood vessels and supporting tissues are damaged, too. The nerves and blood vessels can’t be repaired, but if your dentist can put the tooth back in place within an hour after it was knocked out, there’s a good chance that the supporting tissues will reattach and hold the tooth in place.
It’s essential to get to a dentist right away.
In the meantime, here’s what you should do:
- Pick the tooth up by the upper portion (the crown). Avoid touching the root end.
- If the tooth is dirty, rinse it under running water for a few seconds. Don’t scrub it because the tooth can be damaged easily. When the tooth is clean, tuck it between the cheek and gum or, preferably, place it back into its own socket. Make sure it’s facing the right way. The tooth has a better chance of surviving if it’s kept in its natural environment.
- Another option is to put the tooth in a container of milk, or spit into a cup and place the tooth in the cup with the saliva. The most important thing is to keep the tooth moist. Use a cup of water if nothing else is available.
Remember, if you act quickly and get to your dentist as soon as possible, there’s a good chance the tooth can be saved.
What Your Dentist Will Do
Putting the tooth back in place is a simple procedure. We will use water to flush debris from the tooth socket. Then we will slip the tooth back into place. The tooth may be splinted to adjacent teeth with plastic resin and orthodontic wire. This keeps the tooth stable so it can heal and reattach.
The tooth does not always reattach in the right way. If it doesn’t reattach properly, the tooth may eventually fuse to the jawbone. If this happens, the root of the tooth can erode or be reabsorbed into the body. This occurs slowly. We will monitor this condition and may suggest further treatment such as root canal work.
The nerves and blood vessels that were severed when the tooth was knocked out often don’t heal. If this happens, the tooth may begin to darken. This is usually a sign that you will probably need to have root canal treatment. If you do not get treatment, the tooth will weaken and be more likely to break and crack. If this happens, you are more likely to develop an abscess, which is an infection. Sometimes, you will not know that you have an infection, but if you see something near the damaged tooth that looks like a pimple that comes and goes, you should see your dentist.