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Broken or knocked out tooth

The medical term for a knocked out tooth is "avulsed" tooth.

Alternative Names

Teeth - broken; Tooth - knocked out

Considerations

A permanent tooth that is knocked out can sometimes be put back in place. In most cases, only permanent, adult teeth are reimplanted into the mouth. Baby teeth are not reimplanted.

Causes

Tooth accidents are commonly caused by:

  • Accidental falls
  • Sports-related trauma
  • Fighting
  • Car accidents
  • Biting on hard food

First Aid

Save any tooth that has been knocked out. Bring it to your dentist as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the less chance there is your dentist to fix it. Hold the tooth only by the crown (chewing edge).

You can take the tooth to the dentist by following one of these tips:

  1. Try to place the tooth back in the mouth where it fell out, so it is level with other teeth. Bite down gently on a gauze or a wet tea bag to help keep it in place. Be careful not to swallow the tooth.
  2. If you cannot do the above step, place the tooth in a container and cover with a small amount of whole milk or saliva.
  3. The tooth can also be carried between lower lip and lower gum or under the tongue.
  4. A tooth-saving storage device (Save-a-Tooth, EMT Tooth Saver) may be available at your dentist's office. This type of kit contains a travel case and fluid solution. Consider buying one for your home first aid kit .

Also follow these steps:

  1. Apply a cold compress to the mouth and gums to ease pain.
  2. Apply direct pressure using gauze to control bleeding.
  3. Go to see your dentist right away.

If your tooth is badly broken, your nerve endings may be exposed. You will need immediate dental help to avoid infection and pain.

You may not need an emergency visit for a simple chip or a broken tooth that is not causing you discomfort. You should still have the tooth fixed to avoid sharp edges that can cut the lips or tongue.

Do Not

  1. Do NOT handle the roots of the tooth. Handle only the chewing edge -- the crown portion of the tooth.
  2. Do NOT scrape the root of the tooth to remove dirt.
  3. Do NOT brush or clean the tooth with alcohol or peroxide.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your dentist right away when a tooth is broken or knocked out. If you can find the tooth, bring it with you to your visit with the dentist.

If you cannot close your upper and lower teeth together, your jaw may be broken. This requires immediate medical help at a dentist or hospital.

Prevention

  • Wear a mouth guard when playing any contact sport.
  • Avoid fights.
  • Avoid hard foods, such as bones, stale bread, and tough bagels.
  • Always wear a seatbelt.

References

Pfenninger JL, Fowlder GC. Management of dental injuries and reimplantation of an avulsed tooth. In: Pfenninger JL, Fowlder GC, eds. Pfenninger & Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Mosby; 2011:chap 81

Updated: 2/25/2014

Ilona Fotek, DMD, MS, Palm Beach Prosthodontics Dental Associates, West Palm Beach, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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