It's a dental emergency if you knock out one of your permanent, adult teeth. The tooth isn't going to grow back. If you hurry, a dentist may be able to re-implant the tooth, but if this is unsuccessful, you'll need a dental restoration to replace the tooth—such as a dental implant or bridge. But what about if your child knocks out one of their baby teeth? The empty space will eventually be filled by an adult tooth, so is this a dental emergency? It might be.
A Clean Break
Was the break a clean one? This is when the entire tooth (both its crown and root system) has been pulled out of the gums as a single unit. The root contains the tooth's blood vessels, so even a clean break can result in significant bleeding. There's also the possibility that a section of the tooth has remained embedded in the gums, which may need to be manually extracted. Given the amount of blood and general distress your child may be experiencing, it can be difficult to assess the nature of the break yourself. All potential dental emergencies should be checked by a dentist.
An emergency dentist will control your child's bleeding, clean the wound, and extract any remaining tooth fragments. Whether further intervention is needed can depend on your child's age. Exactly when the replacement adult tooth is expected to erupt is important. An x-ray may be needed to check the development of the adult tooth beneath the gums. If its eruption is imminent, no further treatment may be needed. But what about if your child is younger, and the replacement tooth isn't expected for some years?
Complications of a Prematurely Lost Tooth
It's important to maintain the space that will be filled by an adult tooth. When a tooth in the dental arch is missing, other teeth tend to make the most of this space by tilting into it. This can create a domino effect, with the rest of the teeth in the arch moving out of alignment. If the necessary vertical clearance is unavailable, the replacement adult tooth may not erupt properly, growing at an angle that must be corrected with orthodontic treatment. To prevent this, the emergency dentist may fit a space maintainer.
Maintaining the Required Space
A space maintainer is a small metal loop that matches the circumference of the missing tooth, attached to the teeth that border the empty dental socket. This keeps all teeth in the correct position and allows the adult tooth to properly erupt. If the missing tooth is a prominent one, a dentist can fit a prosthetic tooth to the space maintainer's metal loop for cosmetic purposes.
A knocked-out baby tooth can sometimes be a dental emergency, even if (ideally) it's not a serious one. But given the potential seriousness of the injury to your child's teeth, it's important to treat the situation like an emergency.
For more information about dental emergencies, contact a local dentist.