Can You Save a Knocked-Out Tooth?

Is it possible to save your tooth if you knock it out completely? What should you do if you avulse (knock out) a tooth? Believe it or not, you might be able to put the tooth back into the socket. However, even then, you need to see a dentist immediately. Treatment within the next 1–2 hours will be vital if you want to save your tooth.

Key takeaways:

Losing a tooth can be a traumatic experience, but don’t panic! There are steps you can take to potentially save your tooth and limit the cost of repairing your smile.

First and foremost, it is important to see your dentist within the first one to two hours after knocking out your tooth. This is crucial because there is a higher chance of saving the tooth if it is re-implanted within this time frame. During your appointment, your dentist will assess the extent of the damage and determine the best course of action to save your tooth. In some cases, they may be able to re-implant the knocked-out tooth, but in others, you may need a root canal or other treatment.

Can you reinsert a knocked-out tooth?

Sometimes, yes — but you must act quickly.

Make sure you are only handling the tooth by the crown (the visible portion of the tooth that you usually see above the gums) and never touch the root surface. If there is any visible dirt or debris, hold the tooth over a sink, make sure the drain is closed, and rinse it with a light stream of water. Do not scrub the tooth.

Next, face the tooth in the appropriate direction and gently press it back into the tooth socket. If possible, press the tooth all the way in and bite down on a clean cloth or gauze to keep it in place. If the tooth does not go into the socket, do not force it. Instead, store it as directed below and call your dentist immediately.

How to save a knocked-out tooth

If you knock out a tooth, store it in a sealed container; that way, you won’t accidentally lose it. A small cup with a lid or Tupperware-type of container will work just fine.

You will also need to keep the tooth moist. Cover the tooth completely to make sure it doesn’t dry out — the best thing to use is milk or contact solution. If neither is available, you can use tap water and add a pinch of salt. If you have a very small container and a healthy supply of saliva, that works as well, as long as you can completely cover the tooth. Some people will even place the tooth inside their cheek and hold it there. The key is to be extremely careful not to swallow your tooth accidentally.

Last, but certainly not least, call your dentist. In order for your dentist to save your tooth, they ideally need to see you within 1–2 hours of your injury. Anything after that makes it more difficult to preserve your knocked-out tooth.

What happens if you knock out a tooth

Whenever a tooth is knocked out, several things may happen, such as:

  1. Nerve damage. The nerve (pulp) tissue that runs down the root of the tooth disconnects from the main nerve supply in your jaw, resulting in tooth death. This is why root canal therapy is typically needed on knocked-out teeth that have been reinserted.
  2. Broken bone fragments. Due to the tooth root being knocked out of alignment, there may be bone fragments that come loose around the socket.
  3. Soft tissue injuries. Lip and gum lacerations are fairly common around knocked-out teeth.

Is it easy to replace a tooth?

Depending on the extent of your injury, it may be possible for your dentist to preserve your tooth. Often it’s a matter of “wait and see.” Your dentist may attempt to reinsert the tooth and stabilize it against neighboring teeth. Or they may recommend root canal treatment due to the nerve trauma that occurred.

If your tooth cannot be reinserted, your dentist will likely recommend replacing it with a fixed restoration such as a bridge or implant.

What are some other options?

There’s always the option of not doing anything at all. Unfortunately, a missing tooth can permanently alter your smile’s function and appearance. If possible, the best thing to do is preserve your tooth spacing by reinserting the tooth. However, other options include treating the tooth with a root canal, placing a bridge in that space, installing a dental implant, or wearing a removable prosthesis. These alternatives will help preserve your tooth spacing and normal chewing abilities.

How to cover a missing tooth at home?

Most people with visibly knocked-out teeth will refrain from smiling, talking to other people in person, or going out in public until they can see their dentist about a knocked-out tooth.

Although there’s no way to cover your knocked-out tooth at home, your dentist may be able to provide a temporary cover such as a “flipper” while you wait for a more permanent treatment. Flippers are like a retainer or small flexible partial, with one artificial tooth on it to fill in your open space.

If you have a knocked-out tooth, follow the instructions above and immediately contact your dentist (or an emergency dentist near you). Even if it’s after hours or over the weekend, most dentists will have some type of call service to route your information through to the dentist. The sooner you seek care, the greater your chance of saving your knocked-out tooth.

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