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It’s never fun to lose a tooth unexpectedly—especially when injury or trauma is involved. When a baby tooth is knocked out, it often means uncertainty for parents. Baby teeth are supposed to fall out anyway, right? Even so, will there be problems down the road if you don’t intervene?
Lost Baby Tooth? See Your Dentist.
Loss of baby teeth by injury happens more often than you might think. Pediatric dentists routinely get calls from worried parents in just this situation. In most cases, there’s no cause for panic, but it’s important to see your dentist right away—for lost baby teeth as well as chipped, or loose teeth.
The loss of a baby tooth can range from no big deal to something that needs a little more attention. The good news is that baby teeth are not as deeply rooted as permanent teeth, so there’s less chance of permanent damage. In general, the older the child and the closer he or she is to getting permanent teeth, the smaller the chance that intervention will be needed. But at any age, it’s best to have your child seen by your dentist as quickly as possible.
Lost Baby Tooth: First Steps
If your child’s baby tooth has been knocked out, the first thing to do is to find the tooth. This is primarily to rule out any choking risk, as re-implantation of baby teeth is not generally needed or recommended.
You should also hang on to the tooth in case your dentist wants to take a look. Depending on your child’s age, it may be a chance to move up that visit from the tooth fairy!
If it looks like your child has injured more than his tooth (if facial or oral injuries beyond the teeth are involved), you should probably go to the emergency room. Otherwise, apply pressure to the site with gauze or a washcloth and make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.
Lost Baby Tooth: What to Expect
What happens longer term will likely depend on the location of the lost tooth and your child’s age. Your dentist may recommend X-rays to assess any nerve damage or impact to the underlying permanent tooth. They will be focused on making sure there is adequate space for the permanent tooth to develop, as well as making sure that a lost baby tooth doesn’t lead to problems with speech or jaw development.
In many cases, especially when the child is older, the situation can simply be handled as if a tooth fell out naturally while you wait for the permanent tooth to develop. In some cases (especially if a molar or incisor is involved) your dentist may recommend a spacer to ensure that there’s room when the permanent tooth wants to come in. Some parents of preschoolers opt for what’s known as a “pediatric partial”, which is when front teeth are knocked out at an early age. These replacement teeth are attached to the back teeth with orthodontic bands that are removed when the permanent teeth show signs of coming in. These are usually not medically necessary but are a cosmetic option for parents who don’t want to wait a few years for their little one’s front teeth to appear.
What if My Child has a Loose or Chipped Baby Tooth?
If a baby tooth is knocked loose (but not out) by injury or trauma, the recommendation to see your dentist right away still stands.
In most cases, your dentist will want to do X-rays and may recommend a soft diet for a few days to allow the tooth to re-implant. In some cases, in particular with very young children, your dentist may recommend pulling a very loose tooth to avoid a choking hazard.
If a baby tooth is chipped—you guessed it—see your dentist. She will likely recommend X-rays to check for cracks or nerve damage. In most cases, the tooth can also be repaired with bonding material if needed for cosmetic reasons, or for your child’s comfort.
Lost Baby Tooth: No Cause for Alarm
A loose or lost baby tooth can be alarming—and a little confusing—for parents and kids. Families are not always sure what to do when a tooth that’s on track to fall out on its own is knocked out unexpectedly. There are a lot of variables (including the child’s age, the severity of the injury, and which tooth has been knocked out) that will affect the decisions you and your dentist make. But as in the case of most dental emergencies, seeing your dentist right away is the best approach for your child’s long-term dental health.