It may seem that the sudden impact came out of nowhere—but what happens next is all too real: A permanent tooth is knocked completely out of the mouth. Dental professionals and emergency responders know that the next few minutes are a critical time for the victim: The immediate care that is provided can make the difference between saving the tooth… and losing it. Do you know what to do if this situation happens to you—or to someone you care about?
Whether the tooth was lost in an automobile collision, a sports accident or some other type of injury, the treatment is essentially the same. Your first priority is to make the victim safe and comfortable: Control bleeding with direct pressure to the wound, use a cold compress to soothe the mouth, and offer reassurance. Next, do your best to locate the missing tooth. When you have found it, pick it up gently, without touching the root surfaces. If it is dirty, rinse it gently to remove dirt or foreign material using water or saline solution.
Now comes the critical part: re-implanting the tooth. If possible, open the patient’s mouth and find the place in the jaw where the tooth was formerly located. Some redness, bleeding and swelling is normal in the area of the tooth’s empty socket, but any foreign matter should be carefully removed. Orient the knocked-out tooth correctly with respect to the other teeth: In other words, make sure the outer surface faces out, etc. (If you have any doubts, look at nearby teeth for guidance.) Then, gently but firmly place the roots of the missing tooth back in the socket, facing the correct way.
You can use a moist gauze pad or clean, damp cloth to help you grasp the chewing surface of the tooth as you re-implant it. Then the cloth can then be left in place, giving you a way to keep the tooth from moving as you rush the patient to the nearest dentist or emergency care facility; the absorbent fabric will also help control bleeding in the mouth.
If you aren’t able to re-implant the tooth, the next best thing is to preserve it temporarily by keeping it moist. If possible, have the patient hold it between his or her cheek and gum, where it will be bathed in saliva. You can also use the special tooth-saving solution found in some first-aid kits, or place it in a plastic bag with the patient’s saliva. If no better alternative is available, place the tooth in a cup of cold milk. But whatever you do, don’t let it dry out!
Your next stop is a place where you can get emergency dental treatment: a dentist’s or endodontist’s office, hospital emergency room or urgent care facility. How long do you have to get there?
In general, the quicker the tooth is properly re-implanted, the more likely it can be saved. The best outcomes can be expected when re-implantation occurs in around five minutes. So if a tooth is knocked out, don’t wait! Don’t hesitate to give appropriate first aid, and get professional dental care as soon as you can.
Call us at 1-800-238-5163 to find out about how dental savings plans can help make quality dental care affordable.