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Coaches: Know What to Do If a Youth Sports Player Loses a Tooth

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Tooth avulsions aren't common in youth sports, but children who play a contact sport could lose a tooth during a game, match, or meet. Whether a lost tooth can be saved depends on what's done in the moments after it's dislodged—before it can be taken to an emergency dentist and even before an ambulance has time to arrive. If you coach a youth sports team, here's what you should immediately do if one of your players ever loses a permanent tooth.

Keeping Lost Teeth Moist

The key to saving a lost tooth is keeping it moist. The moment it dries out, its cells will begin to die. If many cells die, no emergency dentist will be able to save the tooth.

Emergency medical technicians and paramedics on ambulances often have teeth-saving kits, which are designed to help keep avulsed teeth moist and viable. Therefore, you should call an ambulance as soon as a tooth is lost.  

A tooth-saving kit will only be helpful, however, if the tooth has been kept moist until the ambulance arrives. Rewetting dried-out teeth won't bring the dead cells back to life.

Thus, it's vitally important to keep a tooth moist until an ambulance arrives. The best way to keep a tooth moist depends on whether the hit that dislodged the tooth also knocked the player unconscious.

Keeping a Lost Tooth in a Player's Mouth

When an athlete doesn't lose consciousness, the player can simply keep the tooth in their mouth.  This, after all, is the tooth's natural environment. The tooth should still be put in a tooth-saving kit as soon as possible, but until an ambulance arrives this is a fine way to keep a tooth moist. Have the athlete place the tooth either back in its socket or between their gum and cheek. Make sure they're careful not to touch the root of the tooth when putting it in their mouth, as that's the living part of a tooth.

Keeping a Lost Tooth in Milk

Sometimes, a hit that dislodges a tooth also knocks a player out. If this happens, the tooth can't safely be kept in the player's mouth. Because they're not conscious, they could choke on the tooth.

To keep an unconscious player's lost tooth moist, place it in a glass of milk within 10 to 15 minutes of it becoming loose. According to Dr. Julian Webber, putting the tooth in water will make its cells swell too much and burst. Putting it in milk, however, will keep a better balance of fluids and ensure the cells don't swell. This isn't a long-term solution, but it will give the EMTs time to assess the loss of consciousness, which will be their first priority, before turning to the tooth.

Milk is also a good choice because it's high in calcium. The calcium in the milk will provide some chemical balance for the tooth, which is largely composed of calcium, until a kit that has a scientifically engineered chemical makeup is available. In contrast, water doesn't have any calcium, only oxygen and hydrogen.

As the coach, you're supposed to lead the team. While it's important to lead them on the court or field, it's even more important to lead in a medical emergency. If one of your players ever loses a tooth, make sure you know what to do. Direct someone to call 911, and then help the player keep the tooth moist until help arrives. Ultimately, they'll need to take it to an emergency dentist, but your actions could determine whether the dentist they go to is able to save the dislodged tooth or needs to use an artificial one. Contact a 24-hour dentist like Hernandez Dental for further advice.