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The mere mention of the dentist is enough to make most of us squeamish, so the thought of dealing with a dental emergency alone during a disaster scenario is truly terrifying. We've previously written about dealing with toothaches and cavities when no dentist is available. Today, we'll tackle another dental problem that is likely to be common during natural disasters and other survival scenarios: dental avulsion.
Dental avulsion is the complete displacement of a tooth from its socket due to trauma — in layman's terms, a knocked-out tooth. This may occur due to a variety of injuries which may occur during a disaster: taking a punch to the mouth, crashing a car, or simply stumbling and falling while running for cover.
If a tooth is knocked out, most people know to save the tooth and bring it to a dentist (assuming that's a possibility). However, holding the tooth in the palm of your hand or even wrapping it in a clean cloth is a bad idea. In fact, it may make saving the tooth impossible. This is because the periodontal ligament (PDL) fibers that attach the tooth root to the bone are extremely fragile, and are normally protected by the gums. These PDL cells will die if they're crushed, dried out, or cut off from blood flow for too long.
So, what should be done to save a knocked-out tooth in an emergency? Here's a guide based on tips from the American Association of Endodontists, Colgate, and the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine: