Broken or knocked-out tooth

If you have a dental problem you should, in the first instance always phone the dental practice that you normally attend.

If you’re not registered with any dental practice then you should read our advice on dental emergencies.

Knocking out a tooth is a medical emergency.

If an adult tooth is knocked out, try putting it back in place and go to a dentist immediately. Don’t try to re-insert a baby tooth – take your child to a dentist immediately.

If you can’t put an adult tooth back into position, place it in milk and contact your usual dental practice. You may be able to see a dentist straight away or you may be directed to an urgent care dental service.

If you don’t have a regular dentist, phone 111 for advice on where to get urgent care.

If the tooth is just chipped, you should make an appointment to see a dentist to fill the tooth or smooth it down. This isn’t an emergency and can wait until the dental surgery is open.

A knocked-out tooth

If you knock out a tooth, you should:

  • find the tooth
  • hold it by the crown (the white bit that sticks out of the gum)
  • lick the tooth clean if it’s dirty, or rinse it in water
  • put it back into position (adult teeth only, never try to re-insert a baby tooth)
  • bite on a handkerchief to hold the tooth in place
  • go to see a dentist as an emergency

If you can’t put the tooth back in position, put it in milk and see a dentist straight away.

The sooner a knocked-out tooth is re-implanted, the more likely it is to embed itself back into the gum.

If your child knocks out a baby tooth, you shouldn’t try to re-implant it because you may damage the adult tooth growing underneath. Take your child to see a dentist immediately.

At the dentist

If you’ve put your tooth back in yourself, the dentist will check that it’s in the correct position by having a look and taking an X-ray. They’ll splint it to the teeth either side to hold it in position for 2 weeks. Splinting is a technique that temporarily attaches the tooth to keep it in place.

If you’ve put your tooth in milk and gone straight to the dentist, the dentist will numb the affected area and reposition the tooth. They’ll check that it’s in the correct position by taking an X-ray before splinting it to the teeth either side for 2 weeks.

A lost tooth

If you can’t find your tooth, the space can be filled with one of the following:

  • denture – a removable false tooth that you have to take out to clean
  • bridge – where a false tooth is glued to the teeth either side using a special cement 
  • implant – where a titanium screw is placed in the jaw bone, and after a few months a mould is taken so that a false tooth can be made

Some of these treatments can be provided on the NHS. Read more about different types of dental treatments.

A denture, bridge or implant will improve the appearance of your smile and restore your confidence. Not everyone needs to have missing teeth replaced – some people don’t mind having a gap. Speak to your dentist about your options, to help you decide what you would like.

A broken or chipped tooth

If you have broken your tooth, try to find the fragment, store it in milk and see a dentist as soon as possible during working hours. The dentist may be able to glue the fragment back on to the tooth.

Don’t worry if you can’t find the fragment, your dentist will be able to use a tooth-coloured filling material to build your tooth up. If part of a back tooth is broken, it may either need a filling or a crown (also known as a cap).

If the tooth is badly broken and the nerves are exposed, it may be a little sensitive and may even need root canal treatment. This involves removing the nerve and placing a root filling.

Protecting your teeth during sports

If you play a sport, such as rugby or hockey, where there’s a risk of being hit in the mouth, you may want to consider getting a mouthguard made by a dentist to protect your teeth.

This involves taking a mould of your teeth, which will be used to make the mouthguard – this will fit well and protect your mouth.

‘Boil and bite’ mouthguards, where the mouthguard is moulded using hot water, are also available, but they’re not as good as one made by your dentist. This type of mouthguard is often uncomfortable to wear and doesn’t provide the same level of protection as a custom-made mouthguard.

The Dental Trauma UK website has more information about the management of dental trauma and mouthguards.

Last updated:
19 December 2022

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