We all remember losing teeth as a child, it was fun, exciting… a celebration even (as long as it meant a trip from the tooth fairy). But once our permanent teeth come in we expect them to stay in place forever. This guide will help you, should you ever find yourself suddenly down a tooth.
REASONS ADULTS LOSE THEIR TEETH
POOR DENTAL CARE: This is the most common reason a tooth comes out. When an infection reaches below the gum line, the teeth will separate from gums. With the tooth so unstable, it’s just a matter of time until it falls out.
TRAUMA: Impacts to the jaw and face can loosen a tooth or knock it out immediately. Car accidents and sporting injuries are the leading causes here.
DISEASE: There are oral diseases that affect the teeth and structure of the jaw, there are also illnesses originating elsewhere in the body that can cause teeth to fall out including Rheumatoid Arthritis, high blood pressure and Diabetes.
SMOKING: The gums are heavily affected by the act of smoking and tobacco, they’re one of the biggest causes of gum disease.
GRINDING: Also known as Bruxism, tooth-grinding can cause trauma over time. The clenching along with grinding eventually wears down the enamel, making them prone to infection and decay.
IT’S AN EMERGENCY
Regardless of why, losing a tooth is not just cosmetic dentistry, it’s a dental emergency. Follow these steps to successfully save and reattach the tooth.
Find the tooth.
Once you locate the tooth, pick it up by the crown, not the root. Touching the root will damage the soft tissue, making it difficult to safely reattach.
Stop any bleeding.
It’s likely the socket will start bleeding, clean cotton balls can be used to stop the bleeding and absorb the blood. Change the balls often, rinsing your mouth out every time. It’s important to be sure you don’t swallow any blood since this usually induces vomiting.
Rinse your tooth.
Gently rinse off any dirt. A saline solution or milk can be used to kill germs and prevent infection. Don’t use soap, or other cleaning products, your gum tissue is currently too sensitive for them.
Put the tooth back in.
It may sound weird, but after you clean the tooth, put it back into the socket. This will help the root and keep its tissues protected. Your saliva will also help prevent infection. You can keep the tooth in place, either using medical gauze or a clean washcloth; gently biting down on either will apply enough pressure to keep it stable until you get to the dentist
*If you can’t get the tooth back in, preserve it in milk or saline solution. Freshwater won’t do, because it doesn’t have any preservation properties, which will create complications when it’s time to reattach. As a last resort, keep the toothin your mouth, between the cheek and gums. The saliva is good for the tooth, but you run the risk of choking on it, which is why this is a last resort only.
Call the dentist.
The sooner you get in, the better. There’s usually only a one hour window to attach the tooth. If you can’t find a dentist that’s available, then head to the emergency room.
Make sure you have the tooth.
It happens, in the heat of the moment, many people have rushed out the door with the tooth on the counter in a glass of milk.
BE SURE TO AVOID:
- EATING AND DRINKING: It’s important to not put any food or drink in your mouth, while the tooth this missing. Getting anything in the socket will likely lead to infection. If you must drink, stick with water and use a straw to direct water past the hole in your mouth.
- MEDICATION: It’s likely that when you get to the dentist you’ll need to be sedated, it’s safer to not have any medications, even an over-the-counter pain reliever. Instead, if you’re in pain, apply a cold or hot pack.
REPLACING A LOST TOOTH
In the worst-case scenario, you aren’t able to reattach the tooth, your dentist will discuss options for filling the gap including implants, partial dentures or a bridge. Keeping a gap between two permanent teeth will cause further oral complications, so don’t be shy about asking questions, or addressing your concerns with the dentist; the sooner a permanent solution is in place the better.