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Replacing Missing Teeth: How Urgent is it to Seek Help?

Surely, there are worse things to experience, but having a tooth knocked out definitely ranks high on the misery index of life’s unfortunate events.

Yet, the numbers show that if you do have a tooth knocked out, you are not alone in suffering this trauma, and there is even hope that the tooth can be saved.

“More than five million teeth are knocked out every year in children and adults but if this happens to you due to an injury or accident it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s lost for good,” says the American Association of Endodontists. “Proper emergency action can save the tooth so that it can be replanted successfully and last for years to come.”

Act Quickly After a Tooth is Knocked Out

So, while some can be forgiven for thinking “what’s done, is done” after such an accident, the truth of the matter is that urgent action is required.

“The sooner the tooth is re-inserted into the dental socket, the better chance it will survive,” says Dr. Stephen C. Dwyer, one of the several doctors at Northwest Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery trained, skilled and uniquely qualified to manage and treat facial trauma. “Therefore, the patient should see a dentist or oral surgeon as soon as possible.”

How quickly should you act after the injury?

The American Association of Endodontists, whose members specialize in diseases and injuries of the soft tissues inside a tooth (the dental pulp), says to visit the nearest dental professional within 30 minutes after the accident.

The urgency is because some professionals estimate that a knocked out tooth, called an avulsed tooth, will survive only 1 to 2 hours without preservation measures.

5 Steps to Take After Your Tooth is Knocked Out

The American Association of Endodontists recommends these five steps immediately after your tooth is knocked out:

  1. Locate the Missing Tooth: This would seem a logical first step, but in the aftermath of an accident or crash, knocked out teeth can be left behind. After locating the tooth, it is important to handle it by only touching the crown or enamel (the top of your teeth you see when you smile and what you chew with) and not touch the root of the tooth.
  2. If Dirty, Clean with Care: Often the knocked out tooth will become dirty, but it is important to clean it with great care. While it is okay to gently rinse off the tooth with saline solution, it should never be wiped off, since the remnants of the ligaments that hold the tooth in the jaw are still attached and are vital to the success of replanting the tooth. The list of “what not to do” when cleaning includes:

  • Do not use soap on the tooth

  • Do not use chemicals of any kind on the tooth

  • Do not scrub or wipe the tooth

  • Do not wrap the tooth in a cloth or tissue

  1. Reinsert the Tooth (If Possible) in the Socket: As soon as you can, reinsert your knocked out tooth back in the socket where it was displaced from. Do this by gently pushing it in with your fingers (remember to only handle the crown and not touch the roots). You can hold the tooth in place with your fingers or by gently biting down on it. Only reinsert your knocked tooth if you have the entire tooth – if you only have a fragment of your knocked out tooth, do not attempt to put it back in your mouth.
  2. Keep the Tooth Moist – Do Not Let It Dry Out: One of the reasons for putting your knocked out tooth back in its socket is to keep the tooth moist by having it in your mouth. Northwest Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery says that if you cannot put the tooth back in its socket, then the tooth can be placed in salt water or milk. Salt water is preferred to just regular tap water which is not good for the root surface cells. There are even commercially available kits that can be used to save knocked out teeth such as “Save-A-Tooth”.
  3. Get to a Dental Professional Within 30 Minutes: From the moment your tooth is knocked out, the clock starts ticking, so arrange an emergency appointment with the nearest dental professional as soon as you can.

What Happens Next? Options Dental Professionals Will Take

What happens next after your tooth is knocked out?

Your dental professional will clean the area, examine you, and will likely take x-rays.

You may also receive some numbing agent at the site where your tooth was knocked out to alleviate some of the discomfort.

Northwest Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery says there are two methods that can be used to reinsert the tooth in the socket:

  • Splint: Composite material or soft wire may be used by your dental professional to anchor the knocked out tooth in place with the help of the nearby healthy teeth. The knocked out tooth then may reattach itself to your bone within three to eight weeks.
  • Root Canal: A root canal may be performed a week or two after the splint is put in place. The purpose of the root canal is to remove infected or inflamed pulp, clean and disinfect the root canal and then to fill and seal it.

If the knocked out tooth can not be saved, then you will have the following replacement options:

  • Dental Implant which is a permanent replacement tooth

  • Denture with a removal false tooth

  • Bridge with an artificial tooth cemented alongside your healthy teeth

Contact Northwest Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery today to speak with our oral surgeons who are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and injuries of the face, mouth, dentition, jaws, and neck, and can help you with your dental implant options.

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