More than 5 million teeth are knocked out every year in children and adults. The best way to prevent this is to wear a mouth guard.

Since accidents do happen, the American Association of Endodontists recommends the steps below to give you the best chance of saving your tooth.

A tooth that has been knocked out of its socket will start to die within 15 minutes. With proper emergency action, though, a tooth that has been knocked out can be successfully replanted and last for years.

Save that knocked out tooth

Quick action will increase the likelihood of saving the tooth. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Pick up tooth by the crown (the chewing surface) NOT the root.

Locate the tooth immediately — do not leave it at the site of the accident — and handled it carefully.

Touch only the crown (the part that you chew food with) to minimize the injury to the root of the tooth.

2. If the tooth is dirty, gently rinse it with water.
  • Do not use soap or chemicals.
  • Do not scrub the tooth.
  • Do not dry the tooth.
  • Do not wrap the tooth in a tissue or cloth.
  • Do not put it in your pocket.

All of these actions could further injure the root of the tooth.

3. Reposition the tooth in the socket immediately, if possible.

The sooner the tooth is replaced, the greater the likelihood it will survive.

It may not be possible to do this, because of the nature of the injury or the age of the person who lost the tooth.

To reinsert the tooth, carefully push it back into the socket with your fingers, or position it above the socket and close the mouth slowly.

Hold the tooth in place with your fingers or by gently biting down on it.

4. Keep the tooth moist at all times.

The tooth must not be allowed to dry. If it cannot be replaced in the socket, put it in one of the following:

  • Emergency tooth preservation kit (such as Save-a-Tooth®)
  • Milk
  • Mouth (next to cheek)

Regular tap water is not recommended for long-term storage because the root surface cells do not tolerate water for long periods of time.

5. See an endodontist or the nearest available dentist ASAP.

Bring the tooth (and the patient!) to a dentist or endodontist as soon as possible — ideally, this should happen within 30 minutes.

If you cannot make it to a dentist in 30 minutes, don’t give up. It may be possible to save the tooth even if it has been outside of the mouth for an hour or more.

Just get there as soon as you can. Emergency tooth preservation kits, if you use one, can dramatically improve your chances of saving the tooth, even if you can’t make it to a dental office in 30 minutes.