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What To Do IF A Tooth Gets Knocked Out

Updated on July 24, 2010

It could happen to you, or to your child.

When I was dropping my son off at school this morning, a teacher ran up to tell me that a little girl had fallen in the playground and knocked out a front tooth. It turned out to be lucky I was there because no-one seemed to have a clue how to manage the situation - apart from frightening the already traumatised child further by wailing things like, 'Oh my God!' and 'What a shame!' and... Well, you know how people's mouths manage to defy science by working completely independently of their brains.

So, in case you ever find yourself in this situation and an important part of either your own or someone else's future depends on your actions in the next few seconds, here's what you should do:

  1. Find the tooth.
  2. Pick it up by the crown (the part that is normally visible in the mouth) - DO NOT touch the root.
  3. If there is any obvious dirt on the tooth, you may rinse it under gently running water but DO NOT wipe the root and DO NOT try to remove any bits of attached tissue. DO NOT use toothpaste, soap, mouthwash, or ANYTHING ELSE to clean the tooth.
  4. DO NOT apply any disinfectant or antiseptic.
  5. DO NOT dry the tooth or wrap it up for protection (sorry about all the shouty capitals but these are crucial points that can make the difference between the tooth 'taking' when the dentist repositions it, or it being rejected by the body) The best place to put the tooth right now is back in the socket. If this is not possible, or if you're worried that it may fall straight back out again, make sure you keep the tooth moist. The best way to do this is for the person whose tooth it is to hold it in their mouth between cheek and gum. If they are too upset or too young and there's a danger they might swallow the tooth or spit it out, you can immerse it in cold milk or water (and please DON'T add any antiseptic).
  6. Then get the child (or whoever) to the dentist immediately (and don't forget to bring the tooth). Research has shown that evulsed (knocked out) teeth have a significantly higher chance of long-term success if reimplanted within 30 minutes - although it is possible to save a tooth beyond this time if it has been kept moist and properly handled.

If you're lucky, you will never need to know any of this. But you might - either because there's no-one else to do it or because some well-meaning but misguided individual is about to make matters worse. It's not a lot to remember but it can make a big, big difference to someone's life.

Tom Nolan is a dentist with over 30 years’ experience.

If you found this article useful, you should check out his book

Watch Your Mouth – An Owner’s Manual.

Also avbailable as a download. This book is packed with practical advice and will tell you everything you need to know to keep your mouth healthy, trouble-free and beautiful for the rest of your life.

And, as always, you can get in touch via

The Dentist in town


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      Michael 6 years ago

      What if the tooth is not knocked out, but is knocked out of its original position? I was rushed to the E.R. with facial lacerations and they told me to rinse 5x a day with antiseptic rinse or half water and half hydrogen peroxide, I don't want to lose my tooth as it has been since Friday and I have an appointment tomorrow at noon to get this checked out. Any advice would be great.

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      Tom D Nolan 7 years ago

      Shae, I don't know where you live but every dentist in your area should have emergency contact details on their answerphone. If yours hasn't, try another. There will be 24 hour emergency cover but you may have to travel to it. Failing that, try the A & E department at your local hospital. Good luck.

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      shae 7 years ago

      my tooth got knocked out hours ago its sunday no dentist is open what do i do ????

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      ev 7 years ago

      my son just got his tooth knocked out...we got to our dentist in less than 20 minutes and she said exactly what you've posted here.... she also said that if the child is too young to "hold" the tooth in his mouth then the parent can hold it in their mouth... I had only heard of the cold milk...but when you're in the middle of the forest, who's going to have milk with them?

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      christine clarke 8 years ago

      found this very interesting and hopefully I will never have to use it. Especially as my home is 1 1/2 hours away from the dentist! Here's hoping if I do need to use it I am in Birmingham anyway.

      Thanks for the info though - great idea!