Over 3 million teeth are avulsed, or knocked out, every year, and a significant portion of those teeth are knocked out while playing sports or engaging in other recreational activities. There are a number of ways that having a tooth knocked out is different from losing a primary or “baby” tooth naturally or gradually due to tooth decay – the tooth loss is often sudden and can be immediately traumatic to the patient, and if a permanent tooth is lost, certain steps must be immediately taken in order to save the tooth and possibly re-implant it.
Abruptly Losing Primary Teeth
If you are present at the time of a tooth loss injury, it is important to do everything you can to calm the athlete, especially a child. As the injury that caused the tooth loss is most likely a head injury, it is also vital to ensure that the athlete is not suffering from a concussion or an injury more serious than tooth loss. If the tooth lost is a baby tooth, then it is highly unlikely that a dentist will re-implant it, as doing so can damage or disrupt the budding permanent tooth. Unless the injury that caused the tooth loss was severe, the permanent tooth should grow in naturally, but if the athlete is very young, a dentist may agree to re-implant the tooth under certain conditions, or may pursue other treatments in order to ensure that the permanent tooth develops correctly, such as inserting spacers.
Saving The Lost Tooth
If you can’t find the tooth outside of the athlete’s mouth, try to confirm that they have not accidentally swallowed it, and if you believe they may have, have a doctor or pediatrician confirm that the tooth is not lodged in their throat or in one of their lungs. Ensure that any bleeding is under control and then attempt to locate the tooth. If you find the tooth outside of the mouth, always pick it up by the crown, or the visible portion of the tooth, and never by the root or bottom of the tooth. If the tooth is dirty, rinse it, and then attempt to re-implant it back into the socket, as the quicker the tooth is re-implanted, the better the chances of saving the tooth. If you are unable to re-implant it, ask the athlete to hold it in their mouth, or as a last resort, store the tooth in milk or water. No matter what method is used to attempt to save the tooth, seek out emergency dental care immediately.