The Best Thing To Do When Your Permanent Adult Tooth Falls Out

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The Best Thing To Do When Your Permanent Adult Tooth Falls Out

We are used to thinking about kids losing baby teeth.  But as adults, we never expect one of our permanent teeth to fall out.  But sometimes, it happens.  Losing a tooth can be a scary, scary event!  But knowing what to do if a permanent tooth falls out is essential.  Losing a permanent tooth is a serious dental emergency and must be handled with care. 

You are not alone if you lose a tooth.  The American College of Prosthodontists (ACP) states that roughly 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth.  So let’s talk about what to do if you lose a tooth!

Please note that I am not a dentist, doctor, or tooth professional.  The information here is from my research.  Please speak to your dentist if you have any questions about losing a tooth.

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Why Would A Permanent Tooth Fall Out?

There are many reasons an adult tooth (or primary tooth) could fall out.  Some of those reasons are avoidable, and some are not.  Here are a couple common causes of the loss of a tooth.

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is one of the top reasons an adult may lose a tooth.  Take those dentists’ warnings seriously!  You must brush your teeth and stay on top of your oral health to keep your teeth strong and healthy.  When we relax our hygiene standards and have poor dental care, we open the door to cavities.  When a cavity occurs within the tooth, the structural integrity of that tooth is compromised, and the root of the tooth can become weak.  Weak roots make it too easy for a tooth to break or fall out.  In addition, bacteria can find their way into the gum line.  When that happens, infections around the teeth can cause the teeth to separate from the gum and?  You got it – tooth loss!

When you consider that we all have uncontrollable genetic factors, you begin to understand that taking proper care of your teeth with good oral hygiene is even more important in keeping teeth clean and healthy.  If you are blessed with good, strong teeth – be thankful and keep them that way.  If you got the short straw and have weak, soft teeth prone to cavities, then even more reason to stay on top of brushing and flossing.  And if you are a smoker, consider this another reason to quit.  Smoking contributes heavily to oral cancer, gum disease, periodontal disease, and tooth loss.

Trauma

Finally, let’s talk about trauma.  Not the kind from your childhood spanking, but the kind that happens when you get knocked in the face by something big and powerful enough to knock a tooth out.  Ouch!  Sometimes this is preventable.  For example, if you play a lot of contact sports, be sure to wear a mouth guard.  Sports injuries aren’t just for arms and legs.  They can also affect your teeth, so wearing mouth guards is essential for all athletes.

When we think of the loss of an adult tooth, I think of this traumatic event.  But as we age, we become much more likely to take a fall, which can lead to a tooth being knocked out.  It can also happen because of a car accident, and as we know, we can’t predict that.  So what do you do when you suddenly realize that you’ve lost your tooth?

My Tooth Fell Out!  Now What?

Losing a tooth is a dental emergency, and you should take this event with the seriousness it deserves.  You will want to take the following steps to give you the best chance of getting the tooth re-implanted successfully.

Retain the Tooth

The first step to take if your tooth falls out or gets knocked out is to find and retain the tooth.  Handle the tooth as little as possible.  Pick it up from the crown or top part of the tooth.  Never touch the root surface.

If the tooth is dirty, rinse it off with your saliva or with milk.  Do not scrape or scrub the tooth; don’t use soap, toothpaste, mouthwash, or any other cleaning product.  The idea is to treat the tooth with careful gentleness.

Place the tooth back into the empty socket in your mouth from where it came.  If that’s not possible, hold the tooth in your mouth.  Contact with your saliva will help keep the tooth moist and increases the chance that the tooth will be able to be saved and re-implanted.  Whatever you do, don’t swallow the tooth!  There’s no hope for re-implanting a tooth retrieved after it goes through your body! 

If you cannot put the tooth back into its socket and the hole in your mouth is bleeding, place some clean gauze in the socket to help minimize the blood until you can get to your emergency appointment (more about that in a minute).

If storing the tooth in your mouth is not an option, place the tooth in a glass of milk.  Do not use water, which can be damaging to the tooth and the exposed root.

Call the Dentist

Take quick action and call your dentist as soon as possible when your tooth falls out.  Let them know you’re on the way.  Don’t go to the hospital or emergency room.  They will not be able to help you as they do not have the equipment to re-implant a tooth.  The ER will be a waste of your time.  Because you have only about an hour to get your tooth back in, time is of the essence!

Once you arrive at the dental office, she will look at your gum and tooth to see if she can re-implant it.  If there is a chance, she’ll disinfect the area and get busy putting it back!

At this point, your dentist will be less concerned about retaining the tooth and getting it back in place than she will be about the risk of infection in the gums or the socket area where the tooth came out.  You will likely receive a prescription for antibiotics to help address this concern.

Special Note for Kids

These rules also hold for a child’s tooth once they have permanent teeth.  A traumatic tooth loss isn’t the same as a loose tooth or a baby tooth ready to fall out.  Once your kids and grandkids get old enough to have permanent teeth, you can follow the same procedures for finding, storing, and getting the child to the dentist.  With a child, be sure to seek a pediatric dentist for treatment.  And be prepared for the tooth fairy to visit!

Aftercare of a Re-implanted Tooth

Once you have placed the tooth back into the socket, you will feel swelling and discomfort.  The dentist may prescribe an anti-inflammatory for this.  You can also use an ice pack on the area to reduce swelling and pain.  And be sure to ask your dentist about an over-the-counter pain medication as needed.

If you have severe pain or swelling, contact your dentist immediately.  You could be brewing an infection, and that’s dangerous.  Don’t be shy if you feel you’re not healing correctly.

My tooth Couldn’t Be Saved – Now What?

Keep in mind that not every tooth can be saved.  Your dentist is the expert and will discuss options with you if your tooth can’t be re-implanted or if the re-implant doesn’t stick.

Even if your dentist cannot save the tooth, you will want to consider how to proceed with this new gap in your smile.  Replacing that tooth is more important than you may think, and it’s not all about vanity, although that may be your biggest motivator in moving forward. 

A gap in your smile can also lead to degeneration of the surrounding teeth.  They can shift and move without their neighbor to hold them in place.  Also, a gap can open those exposed teeth to gum disease, decay, and bone loss in your jaw.  Once these things begin, getting your mouth back into working order can be costly and painful.  There are several dental procedures available to replace your missing tooth.  Ultimately, handling the replacement of a lost tooth right away will lead to a lighter draw on your pocketbook and a more comfortable future for your mouth and gums.

Here are some of the options your dentist may discuss with you for replacing a lost tooth.

A Dental Bridge

A bridge is a prosthetic tooth that fits in the open hole where the tooth used to live.  Your dentist will affix the new prosthetic tooth to two dental crowns around the teeth to the sides of the gap.  The bridge gets fused to the teeth so that this baby won’t be slipping out anytime soon!  You can ride that roller coaster and scream with your mouth wide open and have no worries that your teeth will fly out of your mouth!

Partial Denture

Like the prosthetic tooth used in the bridge, a partial denture fits into the gap where the tooth used to be.  You can snap the prosthetic tooth in and out of place into a metal framework attached to the side teeth.

Dental Implants

Over the past several years, tooth implants have become an excellent choice for replacing missing teeth.  A trained dentist or an oral surgeon places a titanium root into the jawbone.  The titanium stem comes up between the teeth, and a dental crown is placed on top of the stem.  A dental implant is the closest option to the feeling of a “real” tooth but also comes with a hefty price tag.

a woman's hands holding a model of a dental implant

Wrapping It All Up

To summarize, do everything you can to prevent losing a tooth in the first place.  But if it happens despite all of your best efforts, it’s important not to panic but to react quickly.  Seek immediate dental care, and be ready to discuss the options you have in moving forward to keep your smile dazzling!

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