When you are young, losing a tooth can be a magical experience. It is a rite of passage, signifying you are growing up, and in some cases a visit from the “Tooth Fairy” can lead to a reward under your pillow in place of the lost tooth. When you are older, however, losing a tooth is most certainly not a magical experience. After all, we expect our “permanent teeth” to stay … well, permanent.
The reality is that there may come a time where an adult tooth, loosened by factors such as gum disease or the stress of grinding and clenching or by a traumatic event, does fall out.
So, what should you do if you happen to bite into a rich chewy bar and an adult tooth falls out, or if you are wrestling with your favorite nephew and his toddler knee pops a permanent tooth out?
First Steps to Take When Losing an Adult Tooth
When an adult tooth is loosened or falls out, it does not necessarily mean that the tooth is lost forever.
The American Association of Endodontists, specialist in saving teeth, say that “advanced skills, techniques and technologies often can save injured teeth”.
So, what steps should you take in the crucial minutes after losing an adult tooth in a traumatic event?
- Recover Your Tooth: Make sure to only handle the crown end, the surface you chew with, and do not touch where the roots and nerve endings of the tooth. Clean the tooth gently.
- Clean the Tooth: Do not scrub or wipe the tooth but you can gently clean it by rinsing it with water, sterile saline solution or even milk.
- Put the Tooth Back in the Socket (if possible): The best place to keep your tooth safe until seeking treatment is in the socket from where it fell out. You can hold it in place by gently biting down on medical gauze.
- Other Methods to “Preserve” the Tooth: If the tooth will not stay back in its socket, there are other methods you can do to preserve the tooth until you can seek help:
· Your mouth’s saliva can work as a protective agent so simply put the tooth in your mouth, keeping it between your check and gum.
· Put your tooth in a small container filled with milk (cold, whole milk works best), sterile saline solution, or even your own saliva.
· Do not, however, put your tooth in tap water as this may do more harm than good.5. Seek Help as Soon as Possible: Ideally you need to seek treatment from a dentist, other specialist, or even the emergency room within 30 minutes of losing an adult tooth but even if it has been an hour or longer, steps can be taken to save the tooth.
As Colgate points out: “A tooth lost due to an accident has a 90 percent chance of being saved if proper procedure is followed, but for one lost due to periodontal disease, none of these measures will help.”
Who to See After Losing an Adult Tooth?
When you lose an adult tooth, you have several options of treatment from seeking out a dentist, other specialists or visit to urgent care or the emergency room.
Dr. Jason Abel of the Centreville Dental Wellness Center in Virginia says that, “a dentist is your best bet for safely and effectively restoring your tooth. Most dentists offer emergency hours and can accommodate you to help save your knocked-out tooth.”
You can also seek treatment from a specialist such as an endodontist. These dentists, which make up less than three percent of dental practitioners, have completed additional training after dental school.
These specialists have experience in saving teeth because according to the American Academy of Endodontists (AAE), more than five million teeth are knocked out every year.
The AAE says: “if this happens to you due to an injury or accident it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s lost for good. Proper emergency action can save the tooth so that it can be replanted successfully and last for years to come.” If you end up visiting an emergency room attached to a hospital, they likely will have a dentist or oral surgeon on call who can diagnose your situation and try to save your tooth.
Next Steps After an Adult Tooth Falls Out
Dentists and specialists will clean your mouth out and look at options to preserve the tooth. They may also use a numbing agent in the area for your comfort and take x-rays.
Two methods that may be used to reinsert the tooth are a splint and then a root canal:
- Splint: Your dentist may use composite material or soft wire to keep your “lost” tooth in place by anchoring it with the help of healthy teeth nearby. Within three to eight weeks the tooth may reattach itself to your bone.
- Root Canal: The AAE says that “depending on the stage of root development, your dentist or endodontist may start root canal treatment a week or two later” after the split is put in place. The aim of a root canal is to remove infected or inflamed pulp, clean and disinfect the root canal and then fill and seal it.
Of course, even the best attempts may not save an adult tooth that has fallen out, and in that case your dentist or specialist will go over replacement options which include:
- Dental Implant which is a permanent replacement tooth.
- Bridge which is an artificial tooth cemented to healthy teeth alongside it.
- Denture which is a removable false tooth.
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.