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Tooth trauma is something dentists deal with every day, but for our patients, it’s a situation straight out of a nightmare. Having a tooth dislodged—or, worse, completely knocked out of your mouth!—can understandably incite extreme fear and panic. Having a dental trauma guide on hand for patients is essential so they can feel empowered to do their part to care for their health.
Many patients don’t know how to handle a situation like this and can end up making key mistakes that cost them a tooth. And we’re in the business of saving teeth! So we must equip patients with the tools they need to make smart decisions.
It is our responsibility as dentists to shout from the hilltops the essential next steps when someone knocks out a tooth!
When You Knock Out a Tooth: My Dental Trauma Guide
I’ve made it my mission to spread this vital information about what to do when you encounter tooth trauma to every parent, school nurse, and emergency room. I even created a super handy infographic that walks the patient clearly through all the steps to take when their tooth is dislodged or knocked out.
The idea is that if the information is accessible, clear, and easy-to-understand, patients will be way less likely to act on any impulse that might compromise our ability as professionals to treat them and save that tooth!
I use the visual dental trauma guide below in my own practice, and I share it in my community whenever possible—seriously! Sit next to me in a waiting room or at the movies and I might just pass one over.
This essential bit of tooth wisdom is so important. But I know I can’t get the word out all on my own.
I suggest handing it out during consultations, posting it on your social media channels, and keeping a few copies accessible in your office to review face-to-face with patients. If you have kids, drop some copies off at their school nurse’s office—tooth trauma is WAY too common at recess.
You have my full permission to add your branding to the infographic and give it to your patients—I personally believe sharing is caring! Feel free to even add on to make your own, more expansive dental trauma guide.
Now, let’s take a moment and review the steps in case of tooth trauma so we are all on the same page. If you’re a patient, I hope you remember these steps in case you’re ever in a situation where a tooth goes unexpectedly missing!
Tooth Trauma Step-by-Step
If your tooth gets knocked out, first and foremost, don’t panic! Usually, there’s still plenty of time to save it. Just act quickly and competently. Follow the steps below for the best chances of preserving your smile!
Step 1: Find that tooth! Chances are that you noticed your tooth falling out right away, so take the time to do a thorough search of the area. Enlist other people in your search! Friends, strangers, whatever it takes!
Step 2: Pick up the tooth. When you find the tooth, pick it up ONLY by the CROWN. (That’s the part of the tooth that you see in the mirror when you smile!) Do NOT touch the root of the tooth, as it can be easily damaged.
Step 3: Clean the tooth. If the root of the tooth looks dirty, rinse it off using Hank’s Balanced Salt Solution. It’s proven to be the best, hands down! If you don’t have any, alternatives are any saline solution or milk (low-fat milk is best, but any milk will do). Do NOT use water, as this can damage the tooth.
Step 4: Replace the tooth. Try to put your tooth back in its socket. If you’re able to get it back in, hold the tooth in place with gauze or a clean washcloth until you can get to your dentist.
Step 5: Keep the tooth moist. It’s extremely important to do this! If you are having a hard time getting the tooth to stay in its socket, you can keep it soaking in Hank’s Balanced Salt Solution, sterile saline solution, or milk (see Step 3).
Step 6: Act quickly. Remember that TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE! The chances of saving your tooth are much greater if you can get the tooth back in the socket within ONE hour of it being avulsed.
Step 7: Call your dentist right away. Don’t go to the emergency room—instead, get to a dentist as soon as possible. And don’t forget to bring your tooth! The treatment you receive will depend on how long your tooth has been out of its socket and how it was stored. It’s possible that your dentist might begin root canal therapy immediately.
I hope that this information is helpful whether you’re a fellow endodontist, a dental professional, or a dental patient. Again, feel free to download, use, and share my dental trauma guide infographic however you see fit.
If you like this easy and actionable sort of tooth wisdom, I’ve written an in-depth book for patients that includes more like this to empower them to take charge of their dental health. Find both the guide and the book in the links above.