What to do if your tooth gets knocked out

Teeth: Milk not necessary

If a tooth falls out, it’s important to keep the ligament trailing off the end of the tooth moist. But the old wives’ tale about putting the tooth in a glass of milk is wrong, says Dr. Kimberly Harms, a spokeswoman for the American Dental Association who practices in Farmington, Minnesota.

Rinsing the tooth with milk (or water) is a good idea, she says. Milk is useful not because of its calcium content, as many believe, but because it has a neutral pH, she says.

If you lose a tooth, say, at a ball game, and neither milk nor water is immediately available, “suck off the dirt,” she advises.

After rinsing, immediately put the tooth back in its socket. To make sure you’ve put it in correctly, bite down, and it should feel normal. “I’ve had patients put it in backward,” Harms says.

If for some reason, you can’t keep the tooth in its place, the second best option is to keep the tooth in between the gum and the cheek, she adds.

Then get to the dentist or the emergency room as quickly as possible. “The critical period is an hour,” she says. “The longer the tooth is out, the less chance of having a successful implantation.”

If your child loses a baby tooth, chances are the dentist won’t reattach it, but visit the dentist anyway to make sure the root of the tooth isn’t broken, Harms advises.

Here’s some advice about teeth that have suffered trauma from the National Library of Medicine. Parenting magazine has information about knocked-out baby teeth.