What to do if a tooth gets knocked out

Do you know what to do if a person gets their tooth knocked out?

​The ligament that holds a tooth in the jaw bone is very strong, yet it can be completely disrupted by a hard blow, resulting in the tooth popping right out of its socket. Teeth can get knocked out during accidents and blows in contact sports such as rugby, football/soccer, hockey and martial arts. People can lose a tooth during an accident in their workplace. Traumatic tooth loss is also possible during activities that seem fairly innocuous, for example a bad landing on a trampoline, a ‘stack’ from a scooter at the skatepark, or a ’faceplant’ after tripping on an uneven footpath can cause serious tooth damage and traumatic tooth loss. 

Custom made mouthguards are the best protection against a tooth getting knocked out, but some of these accidents occur at a time when a mouthguard has either been forgotten or is not worn anyway.


​Instructions for adult teeth.

It is far too easy to panic at such a time - whether you are the person who has had the accident or you are a bystander. Stay as calm as you can because this is a time to act promptly and with clarity.

The key is be aware of these important steps.

  • Find the tooth quickly. Obvious right? But not so easy on a grassy field. The tooth might be in plain sight or it could be anywhere on the ground around you. Very firmly command everyone to stand as still as they can and look carefully. Get them to check carefully under their own feet.  If people walk around too much, it is more likely that the tooth will be trodden on and damaged.

  • Hold the tooth by the glossy top part. This is the ‘crown’ of the tooth. The root will have blood on it. Do all you can to avoid touching the root.

  • Clean the tooth. In every case of accidental tooth loss, the environment is dirty so the tooth must be cleaned to protect the delicate cells that are still living on its surface.

  • If the tooth is soiled place it in a dish of clean saline or contact lens solution if they are available. If not, use plain water for no longer than 30 seconds.

  • Do not agitate the tooth or place it under running water.

  • The person the tooth belongs to can put it in their mouth and gently clean it with their own saliva. This sounds a bit gross but is actually the safest way to clean the tooth.

  • Never, under any circumstance scrub the tooth.

  • Never use soap to clean the tooth surface.

  • Gently place the tooth back in its socket in the mouth. The person who had the accident will be in shock, so be very calm and reassuring. Place the tooth so that it is facing the correct direction. Once it is almost fully in place, ask the person to gently bite on the tooth to seat it fully into its proper location. The faster this is done, the easier it is to do and the greater the chance of the tooth surviving.

  • Book an urgent appointment with a dentist. It might be the person’s own dentist or a local emergency dentist. It is crucial that the person is seen on the same day as the accident. 

If you cannot reposition the tooth, for example the person will not let you, or the damage to the area seems too severe, get the person to rinse their mouth clean of food, place the tooth in the person’s mouth in the curve of their cheek and get them to as dentist as quickly as you can.

Instructions for baby teeth Baby teeth are very simple.

  • Do not place them back in their socket, even if the child is quite young. There is too much risk of damaging the developing adult tooth underneath.

  • Book an urgent appointment with a dentist. It might be the child’s own dentist or a local emergency dentist. It is crucial that the child is seen on the same day as the accident.  Knowing what to do when a tooth is knocked out is a lot like first aid training – you never want to be in the situation when you have to use it, but boy are you grateful to have the knowledge when an accident occurs.  

Be assured that any person who has a tooth knocked out will be forever grateful for this prompt and caring response to their emergency.

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