Saving a smile: How to rescue a knocked-out tooth surfing

Posted on Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Surfing accidentIt’s a stunning Cape Town summer’s day. It’s been a long week and the sole thing on your mind is to go for a surf with your favourite surf buddy. The first wave feels awesome.

But suddenly, there is a piercing shriek. Has someone spotted a shark? You turn around to see your good friend bleeding from her mouth, one of her front teeth missing.

These things do happen to unlucky surfers, and what you do next could decide whether your friend will keep her natural smile. Knocked out teeth can be reattached and last their owner a lifetime. But only if these simple steps are followed.

What should be done to keep your tooth?

1) Locate the tooth. Be calm, but act quickly. Time is of the essence if the tooth is to be saved. If the tooth has been lost in the ocean, there is not much to be done. But usually a board will knock a tooth into the mouth. However, a swallowed tooth is a lost tooth—digested teeth are not good for replanting.

2) Now head for a dentist. Take care to transport the tooth correctly. The tooth’s own socket is the perfect place to do this. However, if the patient’s mouth is sore or swollen this can be impossible. In that case you should place it in milk, saline solution or saliva (that is, keep it in your mouth).

3) Most importantly, make sure that the root of the tooth does not get damaged. Pick up the tooth by the crown only, and do not wrap it in tissue or cloth. This destroys the sensitive cells around the surface of the tooth’s root which means it cannot be replaced. This is very important!!!

If you get these things right and reach a dentist within 30 min there is a 90% chance your friend will keep the tooth. If you get there within 90 minutes the chances to keep the tooth shrink to 65%.

Your Cape Town dentist will take things from here. With the right dental treatment these avulsed permanent teeth can be successfully treated and continue to function for a lifetime.

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