More than 5 million teeth are knocked out annually among children and adults. However, taking the right steps can help successfully replant the knocked out, broken or chipped tooth.
For milk teeth
When a first tooth (milk or baby tooth) gets broken or knocked out by accident, do not try to re-insert it as doing so can damage the growing adult tooth underneath. Just leave it out as the adult tooth will emerge eventually. Give over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol to relieve pain, if needed.
Note: If the tooth is broken or damaged, in the case of adults and children, seeing a dentist is recommended for a filling or any other procedure to repair the chipped tooth. However, this is not a medical emergency.
For adult teeth
A knocked out adult tooth is a medical emergency and requires immediate assistance from an emergency dentist. Before taking the tooth for an emergency appointment, make sure you follow these steps:
- Pick up the tooth by the crown
Salvage the tooth immediately and do not leave it on the ground for too long. Handle the tooth with care and avoid touching the root to minimize injury.
- Rinse with water if the tooth is dirty
Avoid scrubbing the tooth, drying it, using soap or chemicals and wrapping it in any material.
- Reposition the knocked out tooth in the socket immediately
Re-inserting the tooth as soon as possible will ensure that it survives. Carefully push the tooth into the socket by holding the crown only. Hold the tooth in place with your fingers. Alternatively, you can position the tooth above the socket and slowly close your mouth to secure it.
- Keep the tooth moist
Avoid leaving the tooth out to dry. If you cannot re-inset it into the socket, place the tooth in an Emergency tooth preservation kit or milk. Avoid regular tap water for long term storage as the surface cells of the roots cannot tolerate it for prolonged periods.
- See a dentist within 30 minutes of the injury
Although it is ideal to see a dentist within 30 minutes, even if the tooth has been out for an hour or more, it is possible to save it.
At the dentist
If you have managed to put the tooth back into place, the dentist will first check whether it is in the right position – this will also involve taking an X-ray. If the tooth is in the right position, the dentist will splint the knocked out tooth to the adjacent teeth to hold it in place for two weeks.
If you have carried your tooth in a solution or milk, the dentist will first numb the affected region of your mouth and re-insert the tooth. An X-ray will be taken to check whether the tooth is in the right place before splinting it for two weeks.
A lost tooth
If you are unable to find your broken or knocked out tooth, the dentist may take the following steps to fill the gap:
- Denture. This is a false, removable tooth, which you will have to remove manually for cleaning.
- Bridge. Special cement is used to attach a false tooth to the adjacent teeth.
- Implant. A titanium screw is applied into the jawbone. After a few months, an impression of the tooth is taken to create a new false tooth.
A broken or chipped tooth
Sometimes, an accident can cause a tooth to chip off or break. In such a situation, try following these steps:
- Try looking for the fragment that broke off from the tooth and store it in milk. See a dentist as soon as possible as the he or she may be able to glue it back to the chipped tooth.
- If you are not able to find the fragment, avoid panicking, as the dentist will be able to fill the tooth up with a tooth-colour material. A filling or a crown may be needed if any one of the back tooth is damaged.
- Root canal treatment may be needed if the tooth is severely damaged and the nerves are exposed. The treatment involves removing the affected nerve and adding a root filling.