Just like the trees that lose their leaves each autumn, did you know that baby teeth are actually referred to as deciduous? They naturally become loose as their root structure is slowly dissolved by the adult teeth growing beneath them before falling out to be replaced by permanent, adult teeth. Sometimes adult teeth don't last a lifetime though. Improper dental hygiene can lead to gradual decay which, without intervention, can overwhelm the tooth to the point that it breaks off. Though unpleasant, the tooth is generally just spat out at this point, and a dentist will need to be consulted as to the best type of replacement, whether it's a dental implant, a dental bridge or a partial denture. The loss of the tooth could be anticipated when it reaches such a stage, but the precise moment of loss cannot be predicted. What about when you accidentally swallow a tooth? Is it harmful?
Through the Body
Though it's not intended to be swallowed, the size of a tooth means that it should make its way through a person's body without causing any damage. It should re-emerge at some point (via the toilet) in the same shape and condition in which it was swallowed. There is a minimal risk of a tooth causing some internal damage, and so if the swallowing coincides with certain signs, such as blood in the faeces, pain in the abdomen or vomiting, then a doctor should be consulted as soon as possible. But this is the point of exit for the swallowed tooth. What about the point of entry?
How the Tooth Was Lost
Whether or not to see an emergency dentist will depend on how the tooth was lost. A decayed adult tooth could break off above the gumline, leaving its base and root structure intact. The quantity of tooth that has broken off can determine how much discomfort is experienced, as well as the amount of any bleeding. A swallowed baby tooth can also result in a small amount of blood loss, as is standard when a baby tooth is lost. There is also a third possibility, namely an adult or baby tooth that has been lost due to an accident, which can be uncomfortable, with bleeding from the site.
When the bleeding seems to be profuse and doesn't slow or when the loss of the tooth is coupled with pain, then it's important to see an emergency dentist. The tooth itself might not be able to be preserved, and yet it's important to ensure that the socket which formerly hosted the tooth isn't in a dangerous state. Partial fragments of the remaining tooth might need to be removed, and when the loss was due to an accident, the rest of the mouth needs to be examined for areas of concern.
Swallowing a tooth isn't a big deal, although there are times when quick medical intervention might be required.