The Quick-Action Guide to Saving a Lost Tooth

A guide to saving a lost tooth
13 Sep 2021

A lost tooth can be very traumatic, even if the accident that caused it wasn’t very serious. Realizing your tooth has been knocked out can send you into shock, and also have you in a panic about what to do next.

If a lost tooth does occur, the good news is that there is a chance to save it. The trick is to act fast because you only have a 30-minute window to seek help from your dentist. Here, we offer your quick-action guide to saving that lost tooth.

The 30-Minute Rule

Just like the 5-second rule wherein you can eat something you drop on the floor (!), when you lose a tooth, you have 30 minutes to get to a dentist. There is science behind this rule though! Your tooth contains hidden blood vessels and nerves in its very center. This is literally the life blood of your tooth, which is called the dental pulp. It is the most vulnerable part of your tooth, which is why it is protected by two layers: 1) the very hard outer enamel layer, and 2) the softer dentin below.

The pulp can actually die in 30 minutes if not put back into your mouth where it can start healing and re-bonding. Even if you make it to the dentist in this time frame, you still face possible issues with the tooth regrowing, so you need to act fast.

How does the pulp die?

If your tooth isn’t put back into its socket, it won’t be able to start the healing process where the cells of your tooth re-fuse with your jaw tissue. This re-bonding process allows the cells that hold your tooth in place to create an anchor to the socket so your pulp and tooth don’t die. As soon as the tooth is knocked out, the cells begin to die due to a lack of blood circulation. Without the blood, the tissue dies.

Bone Tissue

Beyond the 30 minutes, you reduce the chances that your tooth will remain healthy once replaced. What can happen is that instead of the jaw bonding with cells, it instead bonds with the tooth, which transforms it into regular bone tissues. This process is called “reabsorption”. When this happens, it causes root loss, so your root is unable to hold your tooth over time. As a result, you end up losing the tooth despite your efforts to save it.

How to Save Your Tooth

The moment you realize that you’ve lost a tooth, stay calm and follow these steps:

  • Try to locate your lost tooth.
  • Pick it up by the “tooth” end, avoiding touching the bottom of the tooth where the delicate tissue is located.
  • Gently rinse the tooth off in cool water to remove blood and dirt, but never brush away dirt as this can damage the tissue, not to mention add bacteria.
  • If possible, place your tooth back into its socket very carefully, using a mirror to make sure the tooth is facing in the right direction. Apply gentle pressure on the tooth, as this will help blood return to the tooth from the socket, while also easing further bleeding.
  • If you can’t put the tooth back in place, then put it in a glass with cold milk.
  • If you don’t have milk or a container, place the clean tooth inside your mouth and hold it in your cheek.
  • Whatever you do, don’t carry the tooth without moisture, like tossing it in a bag or wrapping it in a tissue. It needs moisture to help keep the tooth healthy enough to replace in the socket.

Call your dentist right away, and let them know you lost a tooth. They will arrange to see you immediately. If you can’t get through, call an emergency dental service in Guelph.

Your Dental Appointment

At Guelph Family Dentistry, when a dental emergency patient arrives at our office, we see them immediately. We assess the situation, and check the tooth and socket condition to decide how best to proceed. It is sometimes necessary to remove the tooth if it was placed back in the socket, so it can be repositioned to optimize the rebonding process. If this is necessary, we make the patient feel comfortable by first numbing the area so we can manipulate the tooth without causing pain. Your comfort is just as important as the treatment we provide!

Following Your Tooth Repositioning

It is important to follow the progress of your tooth’s healing to determine if it is successful. Ideally, your tooth will fuse nicely and all will be well. However, it isn’t uncommon for a root canal to be necessary once the tooth has healed. This is because although the fusion has occurred with the tooth and root, the inner pulp itself is either infected or has died. By removing the pulp and filling the canal, we reduce risk for infection or tooth decay.

The key to saving your tooth is quick action, protecting the tooth from drying out, and getting to your dentist within 30 minutes or less. We help make this happen by offering emergency appointments, so give us a call at 888-250-8819 if you experience a dental emergency in Guelph!

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Dr. Omar Al-Azzawi
Dr. Omar Al-Azzawi

Dr. Omar got his BDS degree in 2002 from the University of Baghdad. He has also completed a master degree in Prosthetic Dentistry from the University of Malaya, Malaysia in 2009. Dr. Omar got his DDS in 2013 in Canada after passing the National Dental Examination Board of Canada (NDEB) exams. Read More

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