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Saving a Knocked-Out Tooth

Your 7-year-old daughter is riding her bicycle and wearing her helmet. She’s the picture of safety, right? Seconds later, she comes through the door crying. You see a gaping hole formerly occupied by one of her permanent teeth. What should you do?

Timing Is Critical

Comfort your daughter, but move quickly. Time is a critical factor in saving the tooth, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. The American Dental Association recommends the following tips for saving a knocked-out tooth:

  • Find the tooth. If the tooth is still in your child’s mouth, that’s the best place for it to be, states the American Dental Association. If the tooth fell out, track it down.

  • Treat it with care. When you find the tooth, make sure to hold it by the crown (the enamel-covered part of the tooth above the gum line).

  • Rinse it using cool water. Don’t scrub it, which could remove the essential attached tissue fragments.

  • Place it firmly into the socket if you can. The best place for the tooth is the socket. The tooth doesn’t have to be sterile, just clean and free of obvious dirt, for healing and reattachment to begin without infection.

  • If your child’s mouth is injured and you can’t put the tooth back, or you just don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, you have some time. Staying calm and acting decisively are the most important things you can do for your child and yourself. Simply place the tooth in a cup of milk or saline (1 teaspoon of table salt in a cup of cool water), or use plain cool water.

  • Whether you place the tooth back in the socket yourself or are preserving the tooth, immediately call your dentist or the nearest hospital emergency room that has a dental service. If you don’t know whom to contact, call your local dental society for an emergency number and/or a place to take your child.

The faster you act, the more likely you will save the tooth. It’s ideal to seek emergency dental care within 30 minutes of the tooth loss. However, it’s possible to save a tooth if it has been out of the mouth for an hour or more.

How to Avoid Tooth Loss

Wearing a mouth guard is the best way to prevent tooth loss, states the American Dental Association and the Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. A mouth guard, or mouth protector, is an important piece of athletic gear that can protect your teeth and smile.

You many have seen this type of mouthpiece worn by football and hockey players. However, many injuries occur during sports, and not just in football and hockey. Tooth loss can occur in basketball, softball, and baseball, and even while riding a bicycle. New findings in sports dentistry show that mouth guards help protect teeth even in noncontact sports such as gymnastics, in-line skating, and field hockey. Many dental experts recommend that a mouth guard be worn for any recreational activity that poses a risk for injury to the mouth.

There are several different types of mouth guards. However, the most effective mouth guards are resilient, tear-resistant, and comfortable. It should fit properly, be durable, easy to clean, and not restrict breathing or speech. Consult with your dentist about what type of mouth guard would be most beneficial to your child.

“Guideline on Management of Acute Dental Trauma.” American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Reference Manual. July 2008, vol. 29, no 7. Accessed 2013. www.aapd.org/media/Policies_Guidelines/

“Statement on Athletic Mouthguards” American Dental Association. Accessed 2013. www.ada.org/1875.aspx

“Knocked Out Teeth.” American Association of Endodontists. 2008. Accessed 2013. http://www.aae.org/patients/symptoms/knocked-out-teeth.aspx

“Emergency Care.” American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. 2008. Accessed 2013. http://d27vj430nutdmd.cloudfront.net/17244/64411/64411.1.pdf

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