What to Do When You Knock Out a Tooth

One of the most common traumatic dental injuries experienced by adults is a knocked-out tooth. Knocking out a tooth can be a very alarming and frightening situation—not to mention very painful! It’s also a very serious event that requires swift action in order to save the tooth and your smile.

Here’s everything you need to know about losing an adult tooth to an injury or accident, including an infographic and printable guide.

Click here for a printable version.

How Adult Teeth Get Knocked Out

Adult teeth can get knocked out whenever some sort of force or impact strikes the face or mouth. A knocked-out (or avulsed) tooth can happen when:

  • Playing contact sports.
  • Being involved in a car accident.
  • Falling and hitting the face.
  • Suffering an accidental strike to the face.

Weakened teeth, such as those already vulnerable from decay and damage, are more likely to be lost in an accident. In some rare cases of severe periodontitis resulting in loose teeth, a tooth may come out while eating something tough or chewy!

What Happens When a Tooth is Knocked Out

When a tooth is knocked out, there are many things happening at once.

There is the initial shock or realization that your tooth has come out. In the case of a car accident or severe impact, it might take you a second to understand what’s happened. Bleeding typically occurs right away and can be quite heavy as the mouth is a very vascular area of the body. Your body will kick into action and a blood clot should begin to form in the now-empty socket.

It’s important to know that when a tooth is knocked out, it isn’t just the tooth that has experienced damage. Within the tooth socket, damage has also occurred. The nerves to the tooth and supporting gum tissue have been harmed, along with the blood vessels, which result in bleeding. The damage to the nerves is why a dentist will need to perform a root canal on the tooth if it’s able to be saved. This is because a knocked-out tooth may reattach to the bone in the socket, but nerves can’t be reattached.

That being said, if you act swiftly and take proper action, there is a good chance of saving your knocked-out tooth. It’s possible for it to be reattached and, after root canal therapy and a crown, it will be as though your tooth never experienced an injury.

What to Do If You’ve Lost a Tooth

If your tooth has just been knocked-out, take a deep breath and begin following these steps.

Step 1: Find the Tooth

In a sports-related injury or car accident, it’s possible for the tooth to be ejected or accidentally spit from the mouth. If this is the case you need to immediately search for the lost tooth before moving forward. The clock is ticking and every second counts. Avoid picking it up by or touching the roots.

Step 2: Rinse the Tooth

If the tooth is dirty you’ll need to carefully rinse it to remove the debris. If you’re at home, use cold milk to rinse the tooth. Cold water can be used when milk isn’t available. After rinsing, move on to the next step. Do not attempt to dry the tooth in any way.

Step 3: Attempt to Replace the Tooth

In many cases, a lost tooth may slip right back into the socket without any resistance. This is the ideal situation for saving a tooth after being knocked out. Simply take the tooth after it’s been rinsed and gently see if it will go back into place, facing the right way. Do not force this and if there is resistance, stop.

If the tooth does slip back in place, you can then apply a small piece of rolled-up gauze under it to help keep it in place as you bite down.

Alternative: Place the Tooth Into a Clean Container

If the tooth doesn’t easily slip back into place, find a clean container, fill it with milk, and place the tooth in the cup. If you’re out of the house and these products aren’t available, simply take the clean tooth and place it back in your mouth between your cheek and gum.

Water can also be used as a last resort as it’s better than nothing. Remember that keeping the tooth moist is crucial.

Step 4: Apply Gauze to Control any Bleeding

Grab some sterile gauze, roll it up, and place it on the tooth socket. Gently bite down, only hard enough to provide some pressure to stop the bleeding. Do not attempt to stuff the socket with gauze or use a product that will stick to the gums, such as a paper towel or toilet paper.

If you don’t have gauze available, use the same method with a clean hand towel, handkerchief, or another piece of cloth instead.

Step 5: Call Your Dentist Immediately

Once everything is under control, call or have a family member call your dentist for help. Ideally, you’ll be able to see your regular dentist for assistance. If your dentist is unreachable, you should contact another local dentist that provides emergency care.

Please be cautious of attempting to drive if you’ve just experienced a traumatic dental injury. Blood loss, shock, and stress can make it unsafe to drive a vehicle.

Alternative: Seek Emergency Help If Needed

If you’re unable to get help from your dentist, experiencing additional injuries or symptoms (i.e. dizziness or fainting) or your bleeding is uncontrolled and heavy, you need to seek out emergency help. A local emergency center will be able to help get your pain and bleeding under control. Many modern emergency centers also have a dedicated emergency dentist on-call for these types of injuries.

What to Do if Someone Else Has Lost a Tooth

You’ll want to follow the same steps listed above if a family member or friend has lost a tooth. It’s important to keep them calm, comfortable, and immediately locate the tooth that’s been lost.

Always wash your hands thoroughly before touching the other person and take extreme care to only touch the crown of the tooth. If you’re unsure about attempting to replace the tooth in the socket or the person you’re helping is concerned, simply place the tooth in a sterile container with milk.

Attempt to contact their dentist, but if that isn’t an option, seek out emergency help from a local dedicated emergency dentist or emergency center.

What if a child has lost a tooth?

If the tooth that’s been lost is a child’s baby tooth, do not attempt to replace it. Simply clean the mouth and socket, control the bleeding, and get in touch with a dentist right away.

Emergency Dental Care in East Norriton, PA

Bentz Dental Implant & Prosthodontic Center provides emergency dental care services to anyone experiencing a traumatic dental injury, including a knocked-out tooth.

If you or someone you’re with has just lost a tooth, call our office right away for help. For after-hours emergencies, listen to our phone message and call the emergency number. This will get you in touch with a staff member who can assist. While losing a tooth in this way is never ideal, you can feel reassured that help is only a phone call away.


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