What to Do When Your Child’s Tooth Gets Knocked Out

It's a situation that's inevitable for many parents: your child knocks out a tooth. Here are some tips to help you stay calm if you find yourself in this situation.

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Hi, I’m Dr. B, practicing functional dentist for 35 years. I graduated from the Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco, CA in 1987 and am a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM), Academy of General Dentistry (Chicago, IL), American Academy for Oral Systemic Health (AAOSH), and Dental Board of California. I'm on a mission to empower people everywhere with the same evidence-based, easy-to-understand dental health advice that my patients get. Learn more about Dr. B

It’s one of the scarier moments of being a parent: your child comes to you crying and bleeding after falling off their bike.

My wife always gets a laugh at parties when she tells the story of when she fell off her tricycle and knocked out her four front teeth as a toddler. Apparently, the scene was so gruesome that she was the one consoling her mother.

It can be traumatizing for parents! But by the end of this post, you’ll know exactly what to do if it happens to your child.

Myths About Knocked-Out Teeth

Someone get a cup of milk! Milk actually isn’t the best option – your child’s saliva is. Have your child spit into your hands or into a cup. If the spit is a little bloody, that’s okay. Hold the tooth in the saliva until you can get to the dentist. If you can’t get your child’s saliva, you can use your own if you feel comfortable. Milk is your second best option.

Inserting a baby tooth back in. If your child loses a baby tooth, don’t try to stick it back in. This can damage the new adult tooth.

Cleaning off the knocked out tooth. There may be dirt, debris, or mud on the knocked out tooth – this will damage the tooth. Don’t clean the tooth with alcohol or peroxide. If you absolutely must, use saliva or milk to very gently rinse while trying not to touch it too much.

Preventing Knocked Out Teeth

The best way to protect your child’s teeth is to minimize the chances that it gets knocked out in the first place. As a father, I realize this is a tall order for parents, especially with kids who are especially athletic and high energy, but here are some tips:

Beware of bouncy houses. You don’t have to ban your child from ever entering a bouncy house (what kind of childhood would that be?), but be aware that they are the number one cause of children’s teeth getting knocked out that I see in my dental practice. The teeth actually get knocked out when children bump heads together, not necessarily when they fall. Our kids were crazy for bouncy houses growing up, and they seem to be getting more and more popular! Let your child enjoy the bouncy house, but sure s/he is aware that they need to be careful. Also, have your child pop in her mouth guard before going in.

Wear a mouthguard. Protecting your child’s teeth while they play sports is essential. A mouth guard that protects your child’s adult teeth is a gift you give your child, much like making sure they wear sunscreen so they reach adulthood with minimal skin damage.

Teeth are for chewing, not anything else. I see kids and young adults trying to open packages and even bottles with their teeth. Model good habits for your children – teeth are for chewing only. Anything else could break them or knock them out!

First Aid: How to Save a Knocked-Out Tooth

1. Pick it up by the crown, not the root. The crown is the part of the tooth you bite with. The root is what looks like two little legs. Don’t touch the root.

2. For an adult tooth only, try placing the tooth back in the socket. Make sure you do this without touching the root. Your child can bite down on gauze to keep the tooth in place. Only do this if you know what you’re doing. I’ve seen knocked out teeth re-inserted facing the wrong way!

3. Call your dentist and let him or her know you’re coming to the office! Either your dentist or the dentist on call should see you right away. If not, head to the emergency room.

Mark Burhenne DDS

Learn More: What to Do in a Dental Emergency