As parents, we know exactly what to do when our kids come to us with scraped knees and bumped heads, but there’s not much that can prepare us for a frantic child who is completely inconsolable and missing a tooth. It’s not something that can be fixed with a simple ice pack or a bandage, but the good news is that it can be fixed—as long as you stay calm and follow the steps below.
What to Do When a Baby Tooth Is Knocked Out
Even though they can be scary to deal with, knocked out baby teeth are not usually a serious dental problem. While permanent teeth have that big root anchoring them into the jawbone, baby teeth don’t, so they’re much easier to knock out. Being smaller and easier to knock out also means they have less potential to cause major damage elsewhere in the process.
There’s no need to crawl around on your hands and knees searching for the tooth that’s been knocked out because you shouldn’t replant baby teeth. If you can’t find it, don’t worry and focus on consoling your child and stopping the bleeding. Have them rinse their mouth with water, then use a piece of gauze or washcloth that’s soaked in cold water as a compress to stop bleeding and reduce swelling. Ask your child to bite down on it to apply pressure to the wound.
When you feel you have the situation under control—your child is calm and the bleeding has stopped, call our office to schedule an emergency appointment. During this visit, we’ll examine the mouth to make sure there’s no damage to the gums and other soft tissues. Depending on the lost tooth, we will also decide whether a space maintainer is needed to keep adjacent teeth from shifting into the spot where the knocked out tooth once was.
What to Do When a Permanent Tooth Is Knocked Out
Knocked out permanent teeth are a little bit more involved than baby teeth. The first steps are the same, though: console your child and use a compress to stop the bleeding. The next step is to try to save the knocked out tooth.
To prevent infection and to help the gums reattach to the tooth, it’s important not to touch the root of the tooth when you find it. Grab the tooth by the crown (the portion visible above the gum line) and rinse it with milk or water to remove any dirt or debris.
If you think you can and if your child will let you, try to push the tooth back into the socket and then have your child bite down on the washcloth or gauze to hold the tooth in place. If this isn’t possible, place the tooth in a small cup of cow’s milk, which has a similar chemical composition to saliva. Don’t have milk on hand? Saliva in a small cup will work too, and water will do in a pinch, although it’s not ideal. Just don’t wrap the tooth in a tissue and bring it to our office—it needs to stay moist.
Once the tooth is taken care of, call our office to schedule an emergency appointment. With prompt treatment, the permanent tooth can be replanted in the office. With proper splinting and followup, the tooth can be saved.