You can save a tooth

The weather is warming and we want to encourage our children to “go play!”. At recess, a ballgame or in the yard, sometimes play results in an injury that can’t be fixed with a hug and bandage. Any accident involving teeth requires immediate action. Each year, 1 in 4 children experience dental trauma – that’s a lot of children! Your fast response can save the tooth, giving children opportunities to keep their own teeth long into the future.

There are many different possible types of trauma to teeth, but I want to share what I learned from several dentists when my son’s permanent tooth was completely knocked out. I encourage you to have a conversation with your family dentist on this topic at your first opportunity. 

If a permanent tooth is knocked out completely (avulsion of a tooth), touch it only by the enamel or crown, which is the part of a tooth that is usually visible. Do not touch the root. 

Don’t go to the Emergency Room, where the wait will be too long for the tooth to survive. Immediately choose one of these four options (listed in order of preference), before heading to the dentist’s office:

  1.  Quickly rinse the permanent tooth with the child’s or anyone’s saliva. Place it gently back in the socket where it belongs, facing the correct way. Note: Do not put a baby tooth back in the socket.
  2. If you have a first-aid kit with a “Save-A-Tooth” product, place the tooth in the solution. Save A Tooth is approved by the FDA and endorsed by the American Dental Association. It is available for $25 at and The kit lasts for two years (unopened), with no refrigeration necessary. Immediately place a tooth in the solution to transport to the dentist.
  3. Place the tooth in the cheek of the child’s mouth or any adult’s mouth. If there is fear of the child choking on it or swallowing it, put it in an adult’s mouth, along the gums and cheek. While it may sound yucky, anyone’s mouth is an excellent environment (saliva, pH balance, fluid pressure) to preserve a tooth.
  4. Place the tooth in a plastic bag with cold milk. Some dentists think that whole milk is better than skim. And milk is definitely better than water.

Exposed to air, the tooth begins to die in less than 15 minutes. Go immediately to your dentist or call an after-hours dentist! Any of these options will prolong the life of the tooth and give the child a better chance to have that tooth survive. 

Once at the dentist’s office, the dentist will numb the gums, clean the tooth socket with saline, examine the tooth for fractures, and if possible, place the tooth with the root in the original socket, bonding it to other teeth for support. A dentist also will check for any other injuries to gums, lips and other teeth such as chips and concussion (yes, teeth can get a concussion). Most likely, antibiotics will be prescribed to prevent infection, as well as medication for pain management. Your child may have eating restrictions (such as a soft food diet or no biting into foods) and recommended limitations for contact sports for a period of time. 

The follow-up treatment should include dental X-rays, regular checks for the color-change and stability of the tooth, and a consultation with an endodontist (root canal specialist). New technologies are becoming available for treatment options through specialists. Always consider getting a second opinion.

Accidents happen. As parents, we can attempt to prevent them and control how we respond. Our best prevention of dental trauma is consistent use of car booster seats, mouth guards and helmets. Our best response is to be informed and equipped to minimize the long-term effects. Create a plan of action to save a tooth, carry your dentist’s contact information, and have the “Save A Tooth” kit available. Then we can focus on comforting the child, knowing that we did everything possible to have the tooth survive well into the future.

As a result of our recent experience, our family donated a “Save A Tooth” kit to our local elementary school, and we have one in our home first-aid kit. I strongly urge parents, PTAs and organized sports to consider including this information and product with their supplies.

Be kind to your teeth. Now, go play!

Kathy Woolner

I am a resident of Westlake since August 2007, daughter of an endodontist (root canal specialist) and mother to a 10-year old boy who recently had a dental emergency.

Read More on Health & Wellness
Volume 5, Issue 11, Posted 10:12 AM, 05.29.2013