The medical term for a tooth which has been knocked out is an avulsed tooth. This is where the tooth has been knocked out completely or is just hanging by the nerve, not where the tooth has been partially-dislodged but is still rooted. Having a tooth knocked clean out generally happens as the result of a blow to the head, and is most common during team sports. The advice on this page refers only to adult teeth. If a childs milk tooth gets knocked out, it is best to do nothing but stop the bleeding, administer painkillers and wait for the new tooth to grow.
Can the tooth be put back?
The first thing to do is to try and locate the tooth. If it is whole then there is a chance the dentist will be able to save it. However, if it is fractured or broken this probably will not be possible. It is still a good idea to save the tooth fragments for the dentist to see.
If you do find the tooth and it is whole, then you need dental treatment as quickly as possible. In some cases, the accident will mean that hospital treatment is necessary, and this will probably take priority, but otherwise you should call the dentist for an emergency appointment as soon as possible. The dentist will try to re-implant the tooth. Ideally treatment should take place within the hour, or else the chances of saving the tooth are dramatically decreased.
In the meantime, it is important to look after the tooth properly. When you pick it up, avoid touching the root to prevent it being damaged or infected. If the tooth is still connected, avoid the temptation to pull it out, as the connection will help save the tooth. Ideally, you should put the tooth back into the empty socket to keep it safe. If you cannot do this, or are afraid of swallowing the tooth, it should be kept in a glass of milk or held in the cheek. Do not scrub the tooth or put it in antiseptic. If it is dirty when you pick it up, rinse it with milk or tap water.
What if the tooth cannot be re-implanted?
If you have swallowed the tooth, or cannot get to the dentist in time to have the tooth re-implanted, it is recommended that you have the gap filled with a false tooth. You can have a removable denture, a fixed denture, or the increasingly popular option of the dental implant to replace the tooth.