Injuries to the teeth are fairly common, causing a broken tooth, chipped tooth or a tooth being knocked out.
The action to take depends on how severe the damage is. Prompt action can help avoid losing a tooth.
If a tooth is just chipped, book an appointment to see the dentist to get it filled or repaired.
However, for a badly broken tooth or teeth, or teeth being knocked out, seek urgent dental treatment. Your dentist's surgery will have details of out-of-hours emergency services or a local dental hospital may offer emergency treatment.
A person with a broken tooth may have other injuries that require medical attention, for example if the injury was as a result of a fall.
Still have the knocked out tooth?
For adults, if you still have the tooth that was knocked out, it is important to get it put back into the gum as soon as possible to avoid having a gap in the teeth. Do not re-implant a child's milk tooth as an adult tooth will replace it.
Before the emergency dental appointment, the tooth needs to be handled carefully. Don’t hold the root underneath the tooth. Instead, hold it by the white enamel on the top.
If it is dirty, don’t scrape or brush the tooth, but do rinse it with milk or a saltwater (saline) solution.
Then put the tooth back into the socket, biting down on a hanky to keep it in place.
If the tooth won't go back in, protect it before seeing the dentist by keeping it in the mouth between the gum and the cheek, taking care not to swallow it.
Once the tooth is put in place, the dentist will attach or splint it to neighbouring teeth while it heals. The wires or clear plastic usually stay in place for more than a week.
If the knocked-out tooth is lost, the dentist will talk about filling the gap with a bridge, denture or implant.
Broken tooth or chipped tooth
Don't try to re-attach a piece of broken off or chipped tooth. Instead, take it to the dentist in a clean container in some milk or salvia (spit).
Depending on how the breakage has affected the tooth, and the type of tooth, a dentist may be able to re-attach it.
Other measures include fillings, crowns or root canal treatment if the centre of the tooth containing nerves and blood vessels is damaged.
Preventing tooth injuries
It is not possible to guard against all tooth injuries. However, for playing sport like rugby where there's a risk of getting a knock to the face, a mouthguard can help protect the teeth.
These can be bought from sports shops, or a dentist can get one made specially after taking a mould of a person's teeth.