Save That Tooth!

A tooth that’s completely knocked out of its socket is a dental emergency that must be treated in 30 to 60 minutes for the tooth to have the best chance of surviving.

If one of your teeth, or that of someone you’re with, is knocked out, here’s what to do:

  1. Locate the tooth and pick it up by the crown (top part that you see in your mouth), not the root. The goal is to avoid any additional damage to the periodontal ligaments of the root, which are necessary for proper healing.
  1. If the tooth is dirty, you can briefly rinse it with cold water, but don’t use soap or apply pressure to clean the tooth.
  1. A tooth that’s been knocked out will often slide easily back into its socket, and it has the best chance of surviving if this is done immediately. Position the tooth gently into the socket and press down slowly and gently. If the tooth won’t easily go back into its socket, don’t force it.
  1. Seek emergency care, either from your dentist or at a hospital emergency department.
  1. While on your way to get care, it’s important to keep the tooth moist. Store it in your mouth, next to your cheek, or in a small container of milk. (Soaking in tap water can damage the tooth.)

At the dentist

When you see a dentist, he or she will thoroughly clean the socket, remove any debris and place the tooth back into position, splinting it on either side with wire or filling material.

If the bone below the tooth isn’t broken, the root will most likely reattach itself firmly to the bone in about four weeks. If nerves and blood vessels are damaged, a root canal will likely be needed. Your dentist may recommend that you have this done right away, or wait. 

For a tooth that cannot be saved, there are several treatment options, including a dental implant or a bridge.