Every year, more than five million teeth are knocked out. Many of these injuries happen during sports, but car accidents, falls, fights and other incidents can also leave you with a knocked-out tooth. If your tooth gets knocked out, you need to act quickly and decisively to save it. Making mistakes at this crucial time can cost you your tooth. Here are four mistakes that you shouldn't make if your tooth gets knocked out.
Throwing out the tooth
Some people will discard teeth that have been knocked out. While it may seem like common sense that a tooth that's been knocked out can't be repaired, this isn't true. As long as the tooth and its roots are in good shape—not cracked in half or otherwise severely damaged—you should hang on to your tooth.
Your dentist may be able to replant the tooth in its socket to save your tooth. The likelihood of this succeeding depends on how long the tooth was out of its socket, so if possible, place your knocked out tooth back in its socket. Do this gently to avoid further pain or injury, and don't try to force the tooth into place.
Waiting to see a dentist
If your tooth is knocked out, you can't afford to wait to see a dentist. This is because your tooth's likelihood of being successfully replanted decreases with every minute that it's out of the socket. When your tooth is in its socket, it's kept alive by a constant flow of blood into the pulp, which is the core of your tooth. When your tooth is knocked out, it's cut off from this vital blood supply, and the cells that make up the tooth start to die.
If the tooth isn't replaced in time, it will be dead and your dentist may not be able to replant it. If the tooth can't be replanted, it will need to be replaced with expensive restorations like dental implants, so get to the dentist as fast as you can.
Washing the tooth with soap
If your knocked out tooth falls onto the ground, you may be tempted to scrub it with soap and water to get rid of any dirt, mud or other contaminants. This seems like a common sense solution—no one wants to put a dirty tooth back in their socket—but thoroughly cleaning your tooth can actually damage it. If the tooth is damaged, it may be unsalvageable.
If your tooth is dirty, it's safe to rinse it off with milk or contact lens solution, since these liquids are quite gentle, but it's not safe to use soap or other harsh chemicals. Don't worry about bacterial contamination on the tooth; your dentist can help you prevent an infection once you seek treatment.
Touching the root
The crown of your tooth is the white part that's visible above your gum line, while the root is the part that was hidden from view until your tooth was knocked out. These roots are very delicate, so when you handle your knocked-out tooth, try to only touch the crown. The crown is tough enough to handle the force of biting and chewing, so it won't be harmed by your fingers. The roots, on the other hand, can be damaged or snapped by the pressure of your fingers.
If you're in shock after having a tooth knocked out, it can be hard to hold a tooth safely. If your hands are shaking, or if you don't feel comfortable touching the tooth, ask a friend or family member to carefully pick it up for you.
If your tooth gets knocked out, avoid making any of these four mistakes and see a dental clinic, such as Northwest Dental Services and Implant Center, as soon as possible.