When you or a family member takes a traumatic hit to the mouth, what should you do? Besides immediate first aid, your next action will depend on the extent of damage to any teeth. What you do and when you do it may even determine whether an injured tooth is eventually saved or lost.
If a tooth has been completely knocked out, you have about five minutes to replace the tooth in the socket to give it the best chance of reattachment and long-term survival. While we can certainly perform this action in our office, getting to us within five minutes may not be possible. Fortunately, any person can perform this action on site (see the article linked below for basic instructions on replantation). If for some that's not possible, you should control bleeding at the tooth site with direct pressure, place the recovered tooth in milk or the patient's saliva, and see us as soon as possible.
If, however, the injured tooth has been obviously knocked out of line but not completely detached from its socket, you have a small cushion of time to seek dental treatment — but not much. For this degree of injury, you should see us within six hours of the incident. We will be able to determine the exact nature of the injury, and treat the condition by moving the teeth back into proper position and splinting them.
You have up to twelve hours for broken or chipped teeth still in their normal position. Try to locate and save any broken-off fragments — it may be possible to re-bond them to the teeth. Although it may not be as urgent as other situations, you should still seek treatment as soon as possible. A broken tooth could leave the inner pulp exposed — a situation that left untreated could lead to eventual tooth loss.
Traumatic injuries to the mouth can have serious consequences for your long-term dental health. With our consultation and treatment efforts, we can help you save an injured tooth.
If you would like more information on caring for dental injuries, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Field-Side Guide to Dental Injuries.”