What To Do If You Lose Your Tooth! 

It’s Saturday morning. You wake up early, excited for the game you’ll play later in the day. Your uniform is washed, your cleats are clean. All you’re thinking about are the chances of whether your team will win or lose.

It never occurs to you that, by day’s end, you may have fewer teeth at dinner than you had at breakfast.

West Vancouver Dentist, Dr. Rodney Shainbom, is a Sports Dentist as well as a General Dentist. He knows trauma can happen to an athlete’s teeth while playing any sport at any time. You don’t even need to play a team sport! Falling off a mountain bike head first can break more than your handle bars. You might even spit out a tooth or fragments, looking at disbelief at what lies in the palm of your hand.

Dr. Shainbom, with his years of experience playing, coaching and umpiring field hockey, knows facial injuries can and do happen in all sports and outdoor activities. He wants players, parents and coaches to be up-to-date in their knowledge and skills of how to deal with these injuries on-site. There are three approaches to traumatic injury to the teeth:

Avulsion (Entire tooth knocked out):

1)      Avoid additional trauma to the tooth while handling. Do Not handle tooth by the root. Do Not brush or scrub the tooth. Do Not sterilize the tooth.

2)      If debris is on the tooth, gently rinse with water.

3)      If possible, re-implant the tooth and stabilize by biting down gently on a towel or handkerchief. Do this only if the athlete is alert and conscious.

4)      If unable to re-implant:

a.  Best Choice  –  Place the tooth in a physiologic transport medium, (e.g.,  Hank’s Balanced Saline Solution).

b.  2nd Best Choice  –  Place the tooth in milk.

c.  3rd Best Choice  –  Wrap tooth in saline-soaked gauze.

d.  4th Best Choice  –  Place the tooth under the athlete’s tongue. Do this ONLY if the athlete is conscious and alert.

5)      Time is Very Important. Re-implanting the tooth within 30 minutes has the highest degree of success.

Luxation (Tooth is in the socket, but in the wrong position):

Three positions:

1)      Extruded Tooth  –  Upper tooth hangs down and/or the lower tooth is raised up.

a.  Reposition the tooth in the socket using firm finger pressure.

b.  Stabilize the tooth by gently biting on a towel or handkerchief.

c.  Transport the athlete immediately to the Dentist.

2)      Lateral Displacement  –  Tooth is pushed back or pulled forward.

a.  Try to reposition the tooth using finger pressure.

b.  The athlete may require local anesthetic to reposition the tooth; if so, stabilize the tooth by gently biting on a towel or handkerchief.

c.  Transport the athlete immediately to the Dentist.

3)      Intruded Tooth  –  Tooth is pushed into the gum; it looks short.  Do Nothing.  Avoid any repositioning of the tooth. Transport the athlete immediately to the Dentist.

Fracture (Broken Tooth):

1)      If the tooth is totally broken in half, save the broken portion and bring it in to the dental office as described under Avulsion, item #4. Stabilize the portion of the tooth left in the mouth by gently biting on a towel or handkerchief to control bleeding.

2)      Should extreme pain occur, limit contact with other teeth, air or tongue. Pulp nerve may be exposed, which is extremely painful to the athlete.

3)      Immediately transport the athlete AND the tooth fragment to the Dentist.

We advise that every sports team have their own Sports Dentist designated, so that a player with an injured tooth can get into the dental chair as quickly as possible. After emergency treatment to stabilize the trauma, the child or adult can see their regular dentist for follow-up and further treatment, if necessary.

Every sports team should elect a Dentist who is knowledgeable in sports dentistry and who will be available to serve their teammates throughout the season, during practices and games. Most Important: Every Player must have a properly fitted sportsguard, and keep it with them as a crucial piece of their STANDARD EQUIPMENT, worn at all practices and games, and required with the same mandatory importance as wearing their team uniform.

Should dental trauma occur that you never dream of when you get up early on those exciting Saturday or Sunday mornings, keep these points in mind for you and your team, when you have that important match to play . . . for both the love of the game and love of your smile!


(Dr. Rodney Shainbom wishes to thank the Academy for Sports Dentistry for providing the dental trauma information included above to the public, free of charge, on their website. Please contact them at www.academyforsportsdentistry.org).