Any dental injury is distressing especially when a tooth is knocked out. It can be painful, costly and often involve permanent damage. Dental injuries have the potential to occur in any sport where there is a risk of a blow to the head or the face from either an opponent or equipment. While wearing a mouthguard can help to prevent dental injury it is important that sports personnel are aware of what should be done in the event of a dental injury.

What should you do when a permanent (adult) tooth is knocked out?

Timing is critical. Any delay between the time of the injury and dental treatment dramatically decreases tooth survival.

You should:

  • Remain calm.
  • Find the tooth and handle it only by the crown (the white part of the tooth). Do not touch the root surface (yellow part).
  • Ensure the tooth is clean. If it is dirty the patient should gently suck on it, rinse it in milk, or rinse it briefly in water.
  • Re-insert the tooth back in the socket immediately, if necessary hold in place.
  • If unable to re-insert the tooth, keep the tooth moist by submerging it in milk, sealing it in plastic wrap, or hold in patient’s mouth, near the cheek.
  • Locate a dental practitioner and seek immediate dental treatment – remember time is critical.

Of course, the best advice is to not get a tooth knocked out in the first place. One sport where losing a tooth is common is basketball. If you’d like some additional information on avoiding injuries whilst playing basketball, you can read more here.

To prevent dental injury:

  • See your dentist to have a customised mouthguard fitted. Ensure the mouthguard has an adequate thickness of material (3-4mm). A mouthguard correctly fitted by a dentist will protect teeth, stop biting into the lips and act as a cushioned layer between teeth to reduce the risk of concussion and jaw fracture. Mouthguards now come in new styles, where you are able to select the style and colours of your own mouthguard.
  • Wear your mouthguard at training and during the game.
  • Before each game check the dry mouthguard in good light for any visible tears, particularly where the mouthguard material is thin or has worn away. With use and after a heavy blow the biting surface of any mouthguard may flatten, wear or become dangerously thin allowing players to bite through the mouthguard during use. If this occurs no protection is provided.
  • Update your mouthguard every season to ensure it’s fully effective. It is easier and cheaper to replace a mouthguard than to replace a lost tooth.
  • Keep your mouthguard clean; store it in a rigid container away from heat so it keeps its shape.

Sports Medicine Australia recommend Dentist in A Box – Tooth Trauma Care (Phone: 1800 670 261), a small, compact Australian product containing materials and easy to follow instructions to provide safe first aid care for dental injury.

Smartplay acknowledges assistance from Dr. John Banky in developing this article.