It’s common — not just for kids, but also for active adults — to get hurt playing sports, particularly contact sports. A primary area of damage is the face, with sports-related dental injuries ranging anywhere from minor chips to a completely knocked-out tooth.

Each year, children and adults suffer an estimated 5 million knocked-out teeth from sports and other injuries. In these cases, it’s important to know what to do so you can save your tooth.

At Virginia H. Ellis, DDS Dental Corp. in Orinda, California, Dr. Ellis and our team take tooth loss seriously. And because many people don’t know what to do if one of their or their children’s teeth gets knocked out, we’ve put together this guide, so you can know what steps to take.

Steps to take when your tooth gets knocked out

If you’ve chipped a tooth, gather up the broken pieces, call Dr. Ellis’ office for an emergency appointment, and take the pieces with you for repair. If the entire tooth is knocked out, time is of the essence. You must act carefully but swiftly to increase your chances of saving your tooth. Here are the steps you should follow:

1. See if it’s a permanent tooth or a baby tooth

If your child is the one who’s lost their tooth, confirm whether it’s a baby or an adult tooth. Baby teeth aren’t reimplanted, since a permanent tooth will emerge to fill its place.

2. Find the tooth if possible

If you’re able to find the missing tooth, pick it up, but don’t touch the root. The root contains periodontal ligaments, which are tissues that are essential for proper healing. Handle the tooth by the crown, which is the part of the tooth that’s normally visible.

3. Rinse off the tooth

If the tooth has picked up any dirt or debris, clean it by rinsing it gently with water. Don’t use soap or any other cleaning agent, and don’t wipe it off or scrub it down.

4. Replace the tooth if possible

If it’s at all possible, place the tooth back in its socket. Either hold it in place with your fingers, or bite down on it gently, keeping your mouth closed until you reach our office.

If you’re unable to get the tooth back in its socket, keep the root moist. One way is to put the tooth in your mouth next to your cheek. If that doesn’t work, place it in a small container of milk or in a cup with some of your saliva. Never soak it in water.

5. Get to our office right away

Knocked-out teeth are dental emergencies, and it’s best to get care within 30 minutes of the injury. Call our office to let us know what happened and that you’re on your way.

Dr. Ellis will likely reimplant the tooth, splinting it to the adjacent teeth for 2-8 weeks. During the recovery time, she may need to perform a root canal to ensure the tooth’s long-term survival.

Prevention is best

While a knocked-out tooth can be repaired, it’s always best if you don’t get it knocked out in the first place. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), an athlete is 60 times more likely to suffer a dental injury when not wearing a mouthguard. A mouthguard can help cushion a blow and distribute the force. It can add tremendous dental protection for all sports, but especially for contact sports.

If you have a dental emergency, our caring providers at Virginia H. Ellis, DDS Dental Corp. can help. Just call us at (925) 272-2698 for further guidance. For all other dental matters, book an appointment online or over the phone.