Knowing what to do in case of a dental emergency can make the difference between saving and losing a tooth. With so many teenagers in sports these days, it is rare not to have a dental injury within a group or a team. As a dentist, I always recommend wearing a sport guard to protect your teeth. Unfortunately, this is not enforced in many sports and youngsters don’t want to be the only one wearing a sport guard. If you are a concerned parent, perhaps you can bring this up with the team coach or leader of the group and find a dentist that can offer you a group rate to custom make  custom sport guards for the whole team.

The difference between a custom made sport guard and a store bought one is that it fits perfectly and therefore compliance is usually better. Secondly, we customize sports guards to a particular sport and depending on how aggressive the sport is determines the thickness of the guard. It is also cool for kids to be able to put their team colors into the sport guard.

Here is what you should do if you or your child’s permanent tooth gets knocked out  (by the way, unfortunately it is usually one of the front teeth that gets knocked out).

1. Find the tooth.  Handle it very gently holding it by the tooth portion, not the root.  It is a good idea to have a jar of “save a tooth” (available at drug stores) in your child’s gym bag.  If you happen to have one, gently place the tooth in the jar.  If you don’t have one, place the tooth in milk.  Of course, it is not always easy to find these things, so as a last resort, place the tooth in your child’s mouth between the lower teeth and the cheek.  Be sure to gently rinse the tooth first with some luke warm water.

2. Call your dentist immediately. This is when it is important to have a good relationship with your dentist. He or she is going to have to drop whatever they are doing and rush to your help. If the tooth is re-implanted within 30 minutes, it has a chance of surviving.  Every minute that passes after that, the chances of success decrease. Do not attempt to put the tooth back in yourself.  This may cause serious damage.

3. In the scenario where the tooth is still in the mouth but it is extruded, very gently and slowly attempt to push the tooth back up into what looks like the right position to you. Hold the tooth there with gently pressure, till you get to your dental office. Again, it is so important to have a family dentist that knows you. Your dentist will most likely splint this tooth to the adjacent teeth for a short time to keep it stable for healing to occur.

4. If a tooth is chipped, call your dentist and have he or she assess the situation.  If the chip is minor it can usually wait. However, if the chip is large enough to where the nerve is exposed or a large portion is fractured off, it will be painful. You can discuss these scenarios with your dentist to see what the best solution would be. Your dentist may be able to put some bonding on the tooth to cover the exposed tooth and to correct the fracture or chip.

In the case of a knocked out tooth, if the re-implantation doesn’t take, unfortunately, the tooth will be lost.  Depending on the age of your child, she or he may have to wear a retainer with a tooth in it until they are old enough to get a dental implant.  This can be anywhere from 16-18 years of age or whenever their jaw is done growing. This will be assessed by your dentist.

I have been a dentist in Escondido, CA for over 13 years, (East coast for 5 years prior to that), and I have seen too many teeth knocked out.  It breaks my heart every time to tell a child or a parent that the front tooth may be lost.  In some cases, the teeth have held on till my patients have been old enough to get an implant and in a few cases the teeth are still in the socket and surviving. Unfortunately once a tooth is knocked out, long term prognosis is not good. So the lesson to be learned here to have your child wear a sport guard. It is a lot easier and cheaper than the alternative. It preserves their beautiful smiles!  For a consultation call us at 760-747-1811 and see our new patient promotions.

Happy smiles,

Dr. Rabee McDonald