Symptoms and Signs of Broken or Knocked-out Teeth

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 9/16/2021

Doctor's Notes on Broken or Knocked-out Teeth

Dental injuries to the teeth can occur from falls, physical assaults, sports activities, child abuse, and traumas such as motor vehicle accidents. Often when teeth are knocked out emergency care is needed, especially if a permanent tooth is involved.

Common symptoms of dental injuries of broken or knocked-out teeth include

  • toothache,
  • jaw pain,
  • pain with chewing, or
  • pain or discomfort with temperature changes.

A tooth may break off, become loosened, fall out, or be pushed into the gum line. Less common symptoms of dental injuries such as broken or knocked-out teeth may include

  • isolated bleeding from the mouth,
  • cuts surrounding the lips and cheeks,
  • facial swelling, and
  • a change in the tooth’s color (this may take a long time to appear).

Seek emergency dental or medical care if broken or knocked-out teeth are accompanied by symptoms such as trouble breathing, persistent bleeding, severe pain, facial swelling, or fever.

What Is the Treatment for Broken or Knocked-Out Teeth?

If you have broken or knocked-out teeth try to see a dentist or endodontist right away. Hospital emergency departments often do not have a dentist available or on staff. However, if you have a serious facial injury including injury to the jaw or nose, heavy bleeding, loss of consciousness, headache, or neck pain associated with a dental injury go to an emergency department right away.

If you have a tooth knocked out, these tooth-saving steps are essential:

  • Carefully pick up the tooth by the chewing surface and try not to touch the root or pulp
  • Immediately gently clean the tooth with water only
  • If possible, replace the tooth into the socket where it came out
  • If you cannot do this, place the tooth in milk, a tooth preservation kit, or inside your cheek (be careful not to swallow it)
    • DO NOT do replace a tooth into the socket of a small child due to risk of swallowing it 
  • Try to see a dentist or endodontist within 30 minutes, though teeth may be reimplantable for an hour or more
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) may be used

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.