Knockout job: what to do if you lose a tooth

Accidents happen, and when they happen to teeth they can be painful and disfiguring. Having a tooth knocked out is a dental emergency that can be particularly alarming. However, provided quick action is taken, there is a good chance that the tooth can be re-implanted.

Ring a dentist

Firstly, seek immediate emergency dental treatment by a local emergency dentist. The sooner you see a dentist, the better the chances of saving the tooth. Call your local practice and tell them the problem; most dentists will see you as a priority if they know it is an emergency.

Find the tooth

Try to stay calm, and locate the tooth quickly. Handle it only by the crown; do not touch the root of the tooth if at all possible, and do not try to scrape or rub anything off it, as this could lead to further damage.

Clean the tooth

Rinse the tooth in milk or tap water for a second or two. If this is not possible, then provided the patient is conscious and calm, they can suck the tooth (although this should not be done with children).

Replant the tooth

If the tooth is an adult tooth, place it back in its socket in its original position. You can then use a cloth or tissue to keep it in place. Generally, a tooth that is replaced in this way within twenty minutes can be saved. If for any reason it cannot be put back in the socket, the tooth should be kept moist in milk, or sealed in plastic wrap; you should not put it in tap water, as this could damage the nerve endings. Try not to let the tooth dry out. The patient should try to avoid touching the socket with their tongue.

If the missing tooth is a milk tooth, it should not be replaced, as this could damage the developing adult tooth. Instead the child should see a dentist as soon as possible to ensure there is no damage to the surrounding teeth and gums.

See an emergency dentist

Speed is vital to re-implanting a tooth, so make sure you get the patient to a dentist as soon as possible. They should not use alcohol to deal with the pain.

Losing a tooth can be a painful and even frightening experience, but provided you stay calm and get immediate dental treatment, there is no reason why the tooth cannot be saved.