Ask the Dentist: A mum's advice on how best to save a tooth that's been knocked out

Lucy Stock, dentist at Gentle Dental Care, Belfast, advises on the best way to save a tooth that has been accidentally knocked out

Fingers crossed that the tooth will stay alive with the new generation materials
Lucy Stock

LAST week I got the call that I had always dreaded. My eldest son had been hit by a hockey stick in the mouth when the kids were messing around waiting for the sports bus.

I waited as non-patiently as a dentist mum does for him to arrive at the surgery and then in a squeaky, unconvincing voice told him that it wasn’t too bad. Half an hour and one nerve regenerating 'temporary' later the tooth was rebuilt. Fingers crossed that the tooth will stay alive with the new generation materials.

On the way home I listened to a father describe how his daughter was suffering from facial paralysis due to brain cancer which definitely put a half a missing tooth into perspective.

Since then parents have been asking me what is the best thing to do if it happens to their child or if a tooth gets totally knocked out. Firstly, if it's just a fragment of the tooth, try to find it as it may help rebuilding it.

If the entire tooth is knocked out, the main thing is to remain calm as time is of the essence (have your meltdown later). Find the tooth and then look carefully before picking it up. You want to aim to touch only the crown of the tooth, the part covered in enamel that you normally see and not the root which is covered in precious cells.

The person can hold their tooth and then gently spit on the tooth root or flow water over it to clean it. If you’re in a sports environment wear a pair of gloves. Don’t worry if there’s blood in the saliva as this will actually help with the healing. Avoid temptation to scrub the tooth clean.

Insert the tooth as quickly as feasibly possible and give the person a clean tissue to gently bite the tooth into position. Leave the tissue in place and go straight to a dentist. The exception is if a baby tooth is knocked out – never reinsert it.

There will be times when immediate reinsertion of the tooth is not practical. The thinking is not to let the tooth dry out as this kills the cells on the root. Keep the tooth in a container of saliva, blood, milk or water (in that order of preference). Sport events organisers could consider adding a Save-A-Tooth pot to their first aid kit. This contains Hanks salt solution which gives the tooth the best chance of staying alive until the person sees a dentist.

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