Taking part in sports and rough-and-tumble play can be healthy fun for children, but it can sometimes result in a knocked out tooth. Whether the child loses a baby tooth or a permanent tooth, parents can help by knowing what to do. Losing a baby tooth might not seem serious, but a visit to the dentist is still required. Your dentist can also try to reattach a lost permanent tooth or provide a cosmetic solution for a gap in the smile.
When a Tooth Is Knocked Out
After comforting your child, find and reinsert the tooth if you can. To control the bleeding, place a piece of sterile gauze over the socket and ask your child to bite down on it or hold it in place. According to The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide, you should avoid touching the root of the tooth when handling it. Rinse it in milk if the tooth is dirty, but plug the sink first to prevent it from disappearing down the drain. Don't scrub the tooth or remove any pieces of tissue. Gently replace the tooth in its socket, or if that isn't possible, put it in a clean container of milk, saltwater or saliva. Don't wrap the tooth in a napkin or allow it to dry because this reduces the chance that it will reattach. Take your child to see a dentist as soon as possible, and bring the tooth with you. If you can't find the tooth, it might be stuck in your child's mouth. Your dentist can take an X-ray to look for it and check for other injuries.
What Can Happen
Losing baby teeth is a normal part of growing up, but losing them too early through accident or injury can cause problems. Baby teeth forced into the gum can damage the permanent teeth beneath them. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), losing a tooth before it's ready to come out can lead to other teeth crowding into the vacant spot. The teeth might not leave enough room for the permanent tooth to emerge, which can cause crooked teeth and eating problems. Dentists can prevent this from happening by inserting a space maintainer in your child's mouth until it's the right time for the permanent tooth to emerge. A space maintainer is metal appliance that is placed where the tooth is lost to keep the area open prior to the permanent tooth erupting.
Knocked out permanent teeth sometimes reattach if they are held in place for several weeks. Your dentist will splint the tooth to the teeth next to it using a thin plastic or metal wire. Over time, the ligaments that join the tooth to the bone will regrow. At the following appointment, your dentist will check to see whether the tooth has reattached and if it's safe to remove the splint.
Filling the Gap
When a permanent tooth doesn't reattach, an implant or bridge can return your child's perfect smile. According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, an implant is a titanium post that is inserted into the jawbone. It grows together with the bone over a period of about three months. When the implant is firmly embedded in the jaw, your dentist attaches an abutment to the protruding section and then attaches a crown to the abutment. A bridge is one or more false teeth that are attached to the natural teeth on either side for support, according to the ADA. Fitting an implant or bridge generally requires several appointments. An implant or bridge requires the same care as natural teeth: Regular dental checkups, flossing and brushing with a toothpaste such as Colgate Total®.
Seeing your child lose a tooth by having it knocked out is a heart-stopping moment, but taking preventive measures and going straight to your dentist can save the tooth and help to avoid further problems. Even when the tooth can't be saved, your dentist can provide a solution. A knocked out tooth is a manageable emergency for parents who know what to do.