Steps to Take When You Have a Tooth Knocked Out During a Sporting Activity

Midwest Sports FansAnalyst ISeptember 2, 2009

[Editor's Note: As you know, from time to time we like to divert our attention away from coverage of specific sports events and fantasy sports to provide useful health and fitness information for the sportsman (or woman). One way that we do this is with our Trainer's Room series.  In this post, guest author Dr. Lee Fitzgerald, a Dallas dental implants specialist who recently told us about the importance of mouth guards, discusses what to do in the event you have a tooth knocked out during a sporting activity.]


Whether participating in basketball, hockey, football, gymnastics, or another sporting event, collisions are a common occurrence. With collisions, come the all-too-common misfortune of teeth getting knocked out.

Undoubtedly, during the post-collision frenzy, coaches, players, and parents scramble to reduce the effects of the trauma. However, what many people don’t know is that when a tooth is knocked out, that tooth can oftentimes be saved.

Before addressing how to save the tooth, it must be clarified that when you have a tooth knocked out, you have a dental emergency and you absolutely must visit your dentist immediately in order to decrease chances of infection and side effects.

There are, however, a few immediate steps that can be followed to increase the chances of both saving your tooth and keeping it for years to come.


Step One: Protect the Root

After you have located your tooth, pick it up from the crown of the tooth. The crown is the portion of the tooth that we see in the mouth. You should not touch the root, as damaging the root will guarantee that you will not be able to save the tooth.


Step Two: Clean the Tooth Carefully

If the tooth is dirty you will need to clean it before it goes back into the socket. Do not use anything but water, salt water, or milk to clean the tooth. Do not dry the tooth, and be very mindful of protecting the root.


Step Three: Replace the Tooth Quickly

Once you have cleaned off the tooth carefully, you can gently place it back into the socket of the mouth. Be very gentle as you are placing it. The highest success rate for replacing teeth is seen within 5-10 minutes.

However, you can replace it within 30 minutes of the injury and experience success. While the tooth is not in the socket, it must be kept moist and protected. You will have a better chance of being able to save the tooth if you place it in a glass of milk, a glass of salt water, or gently hold it in your mouth next to your cheek.


Step Four: Go to the Dentist Immediately

Your dentist will know the best way to protect your tooth, replace your tooth, prevent infection, and assign the appropriate treatment for the sensitive area. Visit your dentist immediately for consultation.

Dental injuries are painful, but although the circumstances can be traumatic, the solutions are oftentimes immediate, viable, and practical. Following these steps will not guarantee that you’ll be able to save your tooth, but will increase your chances of preserving a tooth that has been knocked out during a sports activity.

As always, many mouth injuries can be prevented with proper use of a sports mouth guard. Please use yours.


Dr. Lee Fitzgerald is a graduate of the University of Texas and the Baylor College of Dentistry.  He has practiced cosmetic and implant dentistry for over 25 years and is one of Dallas’s top implant dentists.

Dr. Fitzgerald also lectures and mentors young dentists interested in advanced implant and cosmetic dentistry, and currently practices implant dentistry in Plano, Texas at his Dental Implant Center.

He is the former President of the Dallas County Dental Society, and Associate Fellow of the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists, a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry, a Fellow International College of Dentists, and a sustaining member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry

* – Ken Hamlin hit on Donte Stallworth photo credit: FoxSports

* – Mouth injury to basketball player photo credit: