Dr. Barakh looking at x-ray of someone who chipped and knocked out a tooth

In this article, we’ll break down the differences between baby and adult tooth trauma, what to do when dental trauma occurs, and specific steps to take for a chipped or dislodged tooth.

One thing to always keep in mind is that no matter how minor the dental trauma may seem, it’s imperative to see a dentist right away to ensure no hidden damage has occurred.

Often small tooth fragments are lodged in the lips and/or cheek or teeth that seem stable have underlying fractures beneath the gum line.

The first few minutes and hours after dental trauma resulting in chipped, broken, or entirely knocked out teeth can be the most important for predictable treatment.

Let’s discuss what to do immediately following an incident, as well as the differences in treatment for baby teeth vs. adult teeth.

What do you do if you chip a tooth?

My tooth (or my child’s) broke off a big chunk! It doesn’t hurt, but what do I do next?

1. Find the fragment if possible.

2. It needs to be hydrated as quickly as possible but NOT WITH WATER. There is a specialty product called “Save-A-Tooth” or similar, but you’re not likely to have that on hand. Instead, store the fragment entirely in cold milk or your own saliva.

3. Call your dentist for an emergency exam. Let them know the situation, so they are ready for your arrival.

4. Apply a cold compress to the area of trauma to help reduce swelling.

What should I do if I knock out a tooth?

My tooth (or my child’s) got knocked out! What do I do next?

1. Find the tooth if possible.

2. If this is a primary/baby tooth, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO PUT IT BACK IN THE SOCKET. Again, this can result in permanent damage to the underlying tissues. So if you’re not sure, don’t do it.

3. If this is an adult tooth, you may attempt to place it back in the socket (if there are no major obvious other defects in the area) before getting to the dental office.

3a. Pick the tooth up by the crown or “top” part of the tooth normally visible in the mouth. Avoid touching the root or skinny bottom part of the tooth. This could disrupt the attachment tissue that the tooth will use to reattach to the socket.

3b. If the tooth is dirty, rinse the tooth off by only placing it very gently under cold water. Do not brush or rub the root at all. Again, this could disrupt the attachment tissue the tooth needs to reattach.

3c. Gently insert the tooth back into the socket and lightly close until at the office.

4. If you cannot place the tooth back due to bleeding or other injuries in the area, store the tooth in one of the liquids discussed above.

5. Call your dentist for an emergency exam and apply a cold compress to the area to help reduce swelling.

Be prepared for dental emergencies

Tooth trauma is an all too common occurrence for children and adults, so be sure you know the steps to take in case of an emergency.

We’d love to see you and the whole family before any trauma occurs, of course, so stop by for your exam and cleaning today!

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Our dentists are located in Waldorf, MD and see patients from across the state, including Charlotte Hall, White Plains, La Plata, Brandywine, Accokeek, and Mechanicsville.