Losing a tooth is a traumatic experience. A car crash, fall or other sudden accident can crack, splinter or even knock out a tooth entirely. If you’re suddenly faced with a knocked-out tooth, do you know what to do?
The following simple, easy-to-remember guide will help you be prepared if you ever encounter unexpected tooth loss.
Assess the Situation
Holding your own tooth (or tooth parts) in your hand can certainly be jarring. First, focus on the big picture. Assess the situation for additional dangers and injuries.
If you were in an accident, is a missing tooth truly the most pressing concern? Call 911 if anybody is seriously injured or unconscious. Make sure to stay clear of any potential environmental hazards.
Don’t Panic (but act quickly)
Once the situation has been somewhat stabilized, you’re ready to focus on your tooth. Although the sight of a missing tooth can be upsetting, try not to panic. Even the most gruesome of injuries can often be repaired substantially in the dentist’s chair.
Don’t worry – you don’t have to ignore all the traffic lights in a mad dash across town. But you do want to visit a dentist right away. Generally speaking, get to a dentist within 30 minutes. After a half-hour, the chances of successful repair start to drop.
Handle Your Teeth the Right Away
There’s a right and wrong way to handle a knocked-out tooth and tooth fragments. You want to be as gentle and sterile as possible. Even though the loose tooth will likely seem incredibly important, avoid gripping it tightly in your palm.
Instead, try to only touch the tooth’s crown, which is the top part of the tooth. Don’t touch any visible roots. The less you touch the tooth at all, the better.
If the tooth has dirt or debris, you can rinse it in a bowl of lukewarm water. Only use clean water. Exposing your tooth to alcohol or other liquids will do more harm than good. If water is not available, licking the tooth is a safe (if maybe a bit unpleasant) alternative.
Rinse the tooth in the water for no more than 10 seconds. Be gentle. Don’t brush or scrub the tooth. You just want to remove any obvious debris.
Storing Whole Adult Teeth
Surprisingly, the best place to store a missing tooth is back in your mouth. First, rinse your mouth with warm water. Then, gently place the tooth back into the empty socket. This works best if the loose tooth is whole or least large enough to touch the gum line. If possible, gently bite down on a piece of gauze to hold the missing tooth in place.
Note that you should only store adult teeth in this manner. Children should never store a loose tooth in their mouth. The risk of accidental swallowing is too great.
Storing Children’s Teeth and Adult Tooth Fragments
Children’s teeth and adult tooth fragments can both be safely stored in a glass of whole milk. Adult tooth fragments can also be placed in your mouth between your teeth and gums. Both methods will help keep the tooth moist until you can get to the dentist.
Treat Other Medical Issues
Try to control any bleeding. Sterile gauze or cloth is effective and safe. Minimize pain and swelling with a cold compress placed against the cheek. Sucking on a Popsicle or ice cubes can also help relieve pain in both children and adults.
Get to the Dentist
Ideally, you want to visit your regular dentist. He or she will already be familiar with your dental history. But any dentist you can reach quickly is a great option.
If you can’t find a dentist, go to the emergency room. One benefit of visiting an emergency room is your medical insurance may cover some of the initial treatment costs. But an emergency room will typically only stabilize your condition until you can get follow-up care at the dentist’s office.
The dentist might perform a root canal or other endodontic treatment. If the tooth is fractured, wire or composite material might be used to make a splint. Depending on the extent of the damage, the tooth root will hopefully reattach to the bone in about a month. A specific timetable for treatment will be developed based on your specific needs.
Paying for Dental Treatment
Once the general commotion of a lost tooth is over, you might face a new concern. How exactly are you going to pay for these dental procedures? One useful option to consider is a dental discount plan.
Also called a dental savings plan, this is an affordable alternative to dental insurance. For a low annual fee, plan members get discounts at over 161,000 participating dental offices across the country. Discounts between 15% and 50% are available on a wide selection of dental procedures including many emergency procedures related to sudden tooth loss.
Members present their discount card for instant savings at the time of the appointment. You don’t have to wait for reimbursement or fill out any paperwork. After all, you have more important issues to deal with.
Whether due to accident or decay, suddenly losing a tooth can be a scary experience. Just remember to remain calm, touch the tooth as little as possible, store the tooth safely in your mouth or milk, and get to a dentist right away.
By taking the proper steps, there’s a good chance your knocked-out tooth can be successfully reinserted.
Save 15% to 50%* at the Dentist
With an Aetna Dental Savings Plan.