If your child comes to you with a scraped knee, you wash it off and give them a bandage. If they get bumped in the head while playing basketball, you give them an ice pack to bring down the swelling. You know exactly what to do in these situations, but what if your child knocks out a tooth?
As pediatric dentists, avulsed teeth (the technical term for a knocked out tooth) are something we deal with all the time, but most parents are completely unprepared for handling this type of dental emergency. Below, we’ll go over what to do if your child knocks out a tooth so you feel confident about what steps to take if you’re ever faced with this situation.
What to Do When a Baby Tooth Is Knocked Out
Baby teeth are more likely to be knocked out than adult teeth; this is because they don’t have the long root structure of an adult tooth to help anchor them in the jawbone. While it’s hard not to panic when your child comes to you inconsolable, bleeding, and missing a tooth, the good news is that knocked out baby teeth rarely cause serious dental problems.
Your first focus when your child knocks out a baby tooth is to stop the bleeding. Have them rinse with water, then use a piece of sterile gauze or a clean, wet washcloth to place pressure on the site until the bleeding stops. A cold compress can be used after this to reduce any swelling.
Once the situation is under control, call our office to make an appointment. There’s no need to bring the tooth in—you can save it for the tooth fairy. We’ll assess your child’s mouth for soft tissue damage and determine whether a space maintainer is needed to prevent neighboring teeth from shifting into the gap created by the missing tooth.
What to Do When a Permanent Tooth Is Knocked Out
More urgency is needed when a permanent tooth is knocked out because there is only a short window of time in which we can replant the tooth. As with a baby tooth, your first step is to use a compress to stop the bleeding; your next goal is to save the knocked out tooth.
It’s very important that when handling the tooth, you avoid touching the root. Hold the tooth by the crown instead and use milk or water to rinse off any dirt or debris only if it is visibly dirty.
For the best chance of saving the tooth, push it back into the socket. This can be daunting for parents and many children are uncooperative. Once the tooth is back in the socket, have your child bite down on a piece of sterile gauze or a washcloth to hold it in place until their appointment. If you can’t place the tooth back in the socket, put it in a small cup of milk or saliva.
Call our office so we can begin preparing to see your child. With prompt treatment, the tooth can be successfully replanted and stabilized with splints to promote reattachment.