Tooth loss: First aid

By Mayo Clinic Staff

It's sometimes possible to successfully implant permanent teeth that have been knocked out, but only if you follow the steps below immediately — before you see a dentist.

  • Handle your tooth by the top or crown only — do not touch the roots.
  • Inspect the crown and root to determine if any portion of either appears to be missing or fractured.
  • Don't rub the tooth or scrape it to remove debris. This damages the root surface, making the tooth less likely to survive.
  • If your tooth has dirt or foreign material on it, gently rinse your tooth briefly — no more than 10 seconds — in a bowl of lukewarm tap water to remove the debris. Don't hold it under running water, because too much pure water could kill the cells on the root surface that help reattach the tooth.
  • Try to put your tooth back in the socket. If it doesn't go all the way into place, bite down slowly and gently on gauze or a moistened paper towel to help keep it in place. Hold the tooth in place until you see your dentist.
  • If you can't put your tooth back in the socket, immediately place it between your cheek and gum, or in some milk, your own saliva or a warm, mild saltwater solution — 1/4 teaspoon salt to 1 quart water. Or use an over-the-counter product that preserves a knocked-out tooth, such as those approved by the American Dental Association, if you have quick access to it.
  • Get emergency dental care. If your dentist's office is not open, go to the emergency room.

Baby teeth (primary teeth) are not implanted if they're knocked out.

For permanent teeth, if a sharp surface or shiny surface is apparent, there's a chance that part of the root is still in the socket, and reimplantation becomes less successful. If reimplantation does not occur within two hours after the tooth is knocked out, the likelihood of success becomes poor — so it's vital to get emergency dental care.

Nov. 25, 2014