Losing an adult tooth or severely damaging one can be pretty panic-inducing. In the heat of the moment after your tooth is hurt, you may not know what to do, and your actions may cause the tooth to be lost permanently. If you want to be prepared for dental emergencies, it's important to know what to do and what not to do in order to save your teeth.
Saving A Knocked-Out Tooth
If your tooth gets knocked out, you'll have to act quickly to save it. Locate the tooth and pick it up carefully, being sure not to touch the roots. Touching them can cause damage that prevents the tooth from taking hold in your mouth again. If possible, place it back in its socket. If this is impossible, place it in between your gums and your cheek. Be sure to keep the tooth warm and moist so the root doesn't die. Holding a little milk in your mouth with it can do wonders for this purpose, so be sure to get some if there's any milk handy. Don't go out of your way for it, however, as speed is the most important factor.
When you get to the dentist's office, don't try to talk. Simply write down what has happened and keep the tooth in your mouth until the dentist asks for it. If you're lucky you may be able to have the tooth returned to its place like nothing happened.
If the tooth doesn't heal back like it should or the dentist cannot replace it, you may need to get a dental implant to replace the missing tooth. Your dentist will treat the empty spot in your gums in order to prevent gum infection and dry socket, and he or she may perform the precursor treatments for an implant if you request it.
Protecting Cracked Or Chipped Teeth
If your tooth is cracked due to chewing on something hard or sudden trauma, damage can range from superficial to serious. However, in many cases you may not be able to tell whether the tooth is simply chipped or cracked all the way to the root. Pain and swelling are typical even in minor instances of crack or chips, so the first step is to get a cold compress and apply it to your cheek.
Rinse your mouth with warm water to clean it out, especially if you damaged your tooth while eating. If a large portion of the tooth comes off, hold it in your mouth with milk like you would a lost tooth. Depending on the size of the lost piece and which tooth is damaged, your dentist may use all or part of the lost piece to repair the tooth.
Be sure also not to eat before seeing the dentist, even if you do not have to carry a piece of the tooth in your mouth. Eating poses several risks: you could swallow a part of the damaged tooth, cause an infection by allowing food to touch the open wound, or make it more difficult for the doctor to sedate you if surgery is necessary.
The best treatment for a damaged tooth depends on the extent of the damage. Small chips or cracks may be repaired with fillings or special dental sealants to reinforce the tooth. For entirely shattered teeth, surgery is sometimes necessary to remove the shards and pieces of tooth root that are still attached. If you have some tooth left after the initial treatment, your dentist may recommend a crown to protect the weakened remaining tooth. Otherwise, if your tooth is completely removed, you'll likely want to opt for a dental implant, which is indistinguishable from real teeth.
Dental trauma can make your head spin, which is why it's so important to know the steps you need to take before you get hurt. If you remind yourself every now and then how to react to tooth damage, you may be able to protect yourself when someone does eventually happen. Click here for more information about saving knocked out, cracked or chipped teeth.