First aid: Accidental tooth loss

What is it?

It is estimated that as many as three million permanent teeth become dislodged each year from trauma to the mouth. It is important to remember that a permanent tooth that gets knocked out may often successfully be reimplanted. So, knowing what to do if your child's tooth (or teeth) gets dislodged is important.

What are the symptoms?

There may be significant bleeding after a tooth becomes separated from the oral cavity. On the other hand, there may be surprisingly little blood loss. This is true for pain as well, depending upon whether the nerve has been exposed.

What can/should be done at home

First, do not leave the tooth on the ground before heading for help. Pick up the tooth by the top or the crown, not by the root. If possible, clean the tooth by simply rinsing it with water or milk, trying to leave the root of the tooth untouched. Aside from this gentle rinsing, do nothing else to it -- no scrubbing. Next, try to put the tooth back in the socket. This will give it the greatest chance of surviving. If this is not possible, put it in milk, a commercially available tooth preservation kit or in the mouth between the cheek and gum. Do not put it in the mouth if the child is not fully conscious because it may come loose and be inhaled.

When to get immediate attention

Ideally, the child and tooth ought to be evaluated within 30 minutes after the accident. However, teeth have been successfully reimplanted even after 60 minutes.

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