Question: My tooth got knocked clear out of my mouth! Can I save it? What should I do?!
It happens more than you think — a knock to the head or similar accident can dislodge a tooth from your mouth, roots and all. First things first: don’t panic. If you act quickly, an endodontist can re-implant the tooth (also called an avulsed tooth) and make it as good as new.
The most important factors are time and proper storage. Call your dentist immediately — most offices have a 24/7 emergency line for situations like this. They will likely be able to fit you in as soon as possible, if not immediately.
Once you’ve called your dentist, you need to store the tooth in the interim. First, you can try putting the tooth back in the socket yourself if you’re not able to see your dentist immediately. Just make sure it’s facing the right way, then gently apply pressure with your finger, and then close your mouth.
Sometimes the tooth will easily slip back in place, other times you’ll have to preserve it temporarily in a glass of milk. Avoid the urge to clean it, unless it’s gotten dirty — if so, rinse it in milk as well, and avoid using any kind of toothpaste, mouthwash, water, or cleaners. If you don’t have milk on hand, store the tooth in some saliva — ick, we know, but it’s more important to keep the tooth viable for re-implantation than to be temporarily grossed out!
Once you see your dentist or endodontist, they will check the positioning of the tooth if you popped it back in yourself, or will be able to re-insert the tooth if you weren’t able to. Ideally you should see the dentist no more than 30 minutes since the tooth was dislodged though it is possible to save the tooth after this time has elapsed. It also depends on whether or not any part of the tooth or jaw was broken in the incident, and how much of the tissue on the surface of the tooth is still alive. If your dentist is able to re-implant the tooth, he or she will create a splint for it so it can stay firm in the socket and reattach to the underlying bone. This process will take a few weeks, and you will likely need to go for at least one or two follow-up visits to make sure the tooth has attached properly.
Knocking a tooth out of its socket is a dental emergency and needs to be tended to quickly. However, if the proper precautions are taken with the tooth and if you’re able to see a dentist within 30 minutes or so, there’s a high likelihood you’ll be able to preserve the tooth. Just remember to stay calm and don’t panic — your dentist is here to help and make sure your smile stays fully intact.