What to Do If Your Tooth Gets Knocked Out

woman needs emergency dentist appointmentWhile we all experienced losing teeth as a right of passage through childhood, losing a tooth as an adult is no fun at all, especially when it’s the result of an accident. If you should ever be unfortunate enough to have a tooth knocked out, a little knowledge about what to do can go a long way in preventing longterm damage to your smile.

Of course, on of the first things you should do if your tooth gets knocked out is make an emergency dentist appointment. However, depending on where and when your accident happened, it may be hours before you’ll actually be in the dentist’s chair. There is a good chance that the dentist will be able to put it back in place regardless, but only if you follow a few vital steps between the accident and your arrival at the dentist’s office.

Your primary goal after your tooth has come out is to keep the tooth alive, which means making sure the tooth root remains moist and as undamaged as possible. The tooth root is the tissues that provide blood flow and nutrients to the tooth. If these tissues dry out they can die, which makes it much harder for for the dentist to put it back in its socket successfully.

First, you should try to immediately fit the tooth back in its socket. If you manage to get the tooth back in place, you can bite down on gauze or a wet tea bag to keep in there until you get to your emergency dentist appointment. If you can’t get the tooth back in its socket, you’ll need to use other means to keep it safe.

If the knocked out tooth as dirt or debris on it, rinse it off using tap water or bottled water. Always hold the tooth by the crown (opposite end as the root) and don’t touch the root, as this may damage it. Do not brush the tooth or try to sterilize or clean it with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. These things will do more harm than good.

Next, to keep the tooth moist you need to put it either cow’s milk, or if milk isn’t available, put it in saliva. You can also keep the tooth in your mouth, either under your tongue or between your gums and your cheek. But be careful not to swallow it! Don’t put the tooth in water to keep it moist. Water is not as gentle as milk or saliva and can cause damage to the cells in the tooth root. Once you get to your emergency dentist appointment, the dentist will take care of sterilizing the tooth in a way that doesn’t risk damaging it.

The dentist will assess the damage to your tooth and your mouth and determine the best way to proceed. Usually this involves cleaning the area and the tooth and gently inserting it back into its socket. Sometimes the dentist will apply a splint to keep the tooth in position as it heals back into place. This splint resembles braces and will usually be in place for 1-2 weeks.

The biggest thing to remember when a tooth gets knocked out is that it can be put back if you follow the right steps! Be sure to call your dentist for an emergency dentist appointment right away and your smile should be back to normal in no time.

Please note: If you injuries could be life threatening, contact emergency medical services right away and worry about the dentist later!

Bonus fact: The clinical term for a knocked out tooth is an avulsed tooth.

The Science Behind Teeth Whitening

woman getting teeth whitening at the dentistIn a world filled with whitening toothpastes and drugstore whitening kits, it’s important to know that the most effective teeth whitening treatment still comes from your dentist. Not only do dentists have more powerful tools at our disposal, we are also experts on your smile, and can tell you whether teeth whitening is right for you and what kind of results to expect.

To understand how to whiten teeth as effectively as possible, let’s start with a little science.

If you look at teeth under a microscope, you can see that the hard outer layer, called enamel, is made up of a tightly packed crystal structure called rods. While this layer seems solid and smooth to the naked eye, it’s possible for the molecules that cause stains to get deep into the enamel by seeping between the rods. In order to remove stains, dentists use a chemical that can get down to where the stains are and break up them up using a chemical reaction.

The chemicals used in professional teeth whitening are hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide (which breaks down into hydrogen peroxide in your mouth, so hydrogen peroxide is still the active ingredient). Hydrogen peroxide penetrates the teeth and causes a reaction called oxidation, which breaks down the stain compounds.

By the way, whitening toothpastes work by removing surface stains on teeth, not the ones under the surface. They do this by being more abrasive than other toothpastes, which is why your dentist may discourage you from using whitening toothpastes if you have complained of tooth sensitivity. More than anything, toothpastes are good for preventing stains, not removing them!

At-home teeth whitening products from the drugstore also contain carbamide or hydrogen peroxide, but in much lower concentrations. They also contain other ingredients for flavor and to help reduce the possibility of tooth sensitivity. While drugstore kits are much cheaper, because the bleaching agents in these kits are less potent, you can expect to see results in weeks as opposed to days (with a home kit from your dentist) or minutes (when you get your teeth bleached at the dentist).

Another reason that it’s a good idea to go to you dentist for whitening treatments is they can evaluate whether your teeth should even undergo whitening to begin with. Some people don’t realize that whitening only works on natural teeth. Fillings and crowns are made of artificial materials that look like teeth, and feel like teeth, but chemically speaking, they’re very different. Most restorations are made from ceramic, porcelain, or composite resin. These materials do not react the same way to bleaching chemicals as your natural tooth enamel does. If you have large fillings or crowns, a dentist can recommend alternatives to bleaching for improving the appearance of your smile.