As an adult, a knocked-out tooth starts a race against the clock. If you quickly make your way to an emergency dentist, they may be able to replant the tooth—like some grim game show where the prize is that you get to keep all your teeth. But what about when your child knocks out one of their baby teeth due to an accident? Since a baby tooth isn't intended to be permanent, is it a big deal if it's knocked out a little ahead of schedule?
Baby Teeth Are Not Replanted
Time is of the essence when an adult tooth is to be replanted in the dental arch. However, if successful, this replantation is intended to restore a permanent tooth (with an emphasis on permanent). The replantation process doesn't need to account for the fact that another tooth will develop and push the existing tooth out of its socket. In short, a baby tooth will not be replanted, as this can be extremely disruptive to the development and emergence of the adult tooth that will ultimately replace it.
See a Dentist Urgently
Although the baby tooth will not be replanted, your child will still need to be assessed by a dentist with some urgency. If the accident happens outside of regular working hours, or if your usual dentist cannot see your child immediately, then consult an emergency dentist. This appointment is essential to help rule out the possibility of the injury being more severe than you initially thought.
A Dental Assessment
A dentist will examine the missing tooth, and it's not a given that the tooth will have been knocked out in its entirety. In the aftermath of an accident, especially when the accident has resulted in bleeding, a visual inspection of the site can be inconclusive. If present, any remaining tooth fragments will be extracted. An x-ray is also likely, and this allows the dentist to identify any trauma to adjacent teeth, which will be treated as needed. Once the critical damage has been managed, you will likely be referred back to your usual dentist.
Maintaining the Space
The premature loss of the baby tooth mustn't disrupt the development of your child's permanent tooth. In some cases, a dentist will need to add a space maintainer to your child's dental arch. This is a small metal loop of the approximate circumference of the missing tooth, and it simply keeps the space empty—ready for the emergence of the adult tooth. A space maintainer also prevents neighbouring teeth from tilting into the gap, which can also disturb the eruption of the adult tooth. If an x-ray confirms that the adult tooth is already ready to erupt from the gums (which depends on your child's age), then a space maintainer may not be necessary.
Just because a knocked out baby tooth cannot be replanted, it doesn't automatically mean that you're not dealing with a dental emergency. It's always preferable to err on the side of caution when it comes to your child's dental health.
As a mum, I know how essential sport can be to children's development. Through team sports like soccer, kids learn persistence, sportsmanship and the value of supporting their team members. However, all that learning carries some risk as well, and a stray elbow or a ball to the face can result in oral injuries. I have been the mum rushing to the emergency room with a precious permanent tooth sitting in a cup of milk. Admittedly, at the time, I wasn't even sure if the cup of milk was the right solution. As a parent, you will face those situations, and I'm here to make sure you know what to do when they pop up. With this blog, let's explore children's dentistry and sports injuries together... I want you to have the info you need to stay cool, calm and collected, regardless of how many teeth are on the pitch.