Health Matters: Saving Knocked-Out Teeth and Other Helpful Tips
In the wake of COVID-19, children are spending more time at home with siblings and in some households, nerves are starting to fray. If this frustration spills over into a front tooth getting knocked out, it’s important to take action quickly. The human body is a self-healing machine and with the right actions, a permanent adult human tooth can actually re-implant itself.
Here’s what to do if your child knocks out one of their adult teeth. First, keep the tooth moist. If the child is at least eight years old, they can keep the tooth in their mouth between their cheek and gum. If the child is younger or simply not comfortable with the tooth in their mouth, the tooth can be placed in milk, saline or, ideally, in a solution you have on hand for just such an occasion, a pH-balanced solution that keeps the tooth viable while you pack your child into the car and drive to the dentist. (A Google search for “Save-A-Tooth” will provide several options.) Whatever you do, it’s important to not place the tooth in pure water as it can harm the cells of the tooth.
The most essential steps are to keep the tooth clean and moist and to get to the dentist as quickly as possible. If you see the dentist within an hour, the chances of re-implanting the tooth are usually quite good, but any time within the first 24 hours can work. After that, it’s less likely the tooth will successfully re-implant, but call your dentist anyway. Of course, accidents sometimes happen after hours. If that’s the case, take your child and their tooth to the nearest hospital emergency department. Some emergency physicians know how to re-implant knocked-out teeth.
Generally, dental care is by appointment only, but if you come to an MCHC Health Center site and explain your dental emergency, we’ll do everything we can to fit you in right away. Even if a dentist cannot re-implant the tooth, it is important to see a dentist after dental trauma such as having a tooth knocked out or broken. We can often help minimize the damage. Sometimes, a wait-and-see approach is best, while other times, quick action can save the child from further pain or damage.
Hopefully, the worst problem your children will face as a result of the pandemic is a little restlessness. But, being home can lead to a few other dental problems. Here are some tips to keep up good dental health.
Being at home can make it easier to snack throughout the day, leaving food that can turn to sugars on the teeth. Popular flour-based snacks like Goldfish crackers and Animal crackers are more likely than other types of food to get stuck on the teeth and cause cavities, so either limit their use or have children brush their teeth afterwards. If you’re not sure whether a snack is a good one, have your child say, “Ah” and look in their mouth after they eat. Do you see a bunch of food stuck in their teeth? There’s your answer. At the very least, have them eat an apple afterward or swish water around in their mouth to remove debris.
Another cavity-causing culprit is sugary drinks. Most folks know that sodas aren’t good for us; however, during hot summers, responsible parents who want to properly hydrate their children often turn to drinks like Gatorade or Powerade. Much like sodas, these have lots of sugar and can lead to dental decay. Fruit juices are no better. Oftentimes, water is the best choice. It’s a great source of hydration and it doesn’t cause cavities.
Finally, it’s best not to put off dental check-ups. Most dental offices have re-opened after the initial pandemic shutdown. As healthcare professionals, we know how to use personal protective equipment to minimize risk. It’s better to come in than to delay care that can lead to bigger problems down the road. Children should begin seeing their dentist as soon as teeth erupt or at age one, whichever comes first.
Dr. Mauger is a dentist at MCHC Health Centers—a local, non-profit, federally qualified health center offering medical, dental and behavioral health care to people in Lake and Mendocino Counties.