My recently released first aid book shows a color picture of a person's mouth wide open displaying a recently knocked-out tooth. Several people have gasped in reaction to this graphic picture and said, "Such things don't happen that often!"

Sadly, such things do happen and quite frequently - frequently enough that even though most first aid books contain little information on dental emergencies, people should know what to do in such events.Knocked-out permanent teeth can be reimplanted, but much depends on how quickly you seek dental attention.

Your response depends on the victim's age. Baby teeth are not reimplanted because these teeth have a limited life span. However, you should attempt to salvage the teeth of older children and adults for cosmetic and functional purposes.

If a permanent tooth is knocked out, seek immediate dental attention and bring the tooth with the victim. A dentist usually can successfully reimplant a knocked out tooth. However, the reimplantation is not always successful. Later loss of the tooth can occur after an average of five to 10 years as the result of delayed complications from root damage.

Therefore, the manner in which you initially care for a knocked-out tooth is extremely important.

The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons recommends these first aid steps for a knocked-out tooth:

-When the tooth is found, handle it by the crown only. Do not rub it or scrape it to remove dirt.

-Gently rinse the tooth in tap water (but not under a faucet) to remove any dirt.

-Try to replace it in the socket and bite down gently on gauze to keep it in place. See immediate dental attention.

-If the tooth cannot be replaced in the socket, immediately place it in milk, your own saliva or a warm, mild, salt-water solution.

Remember: the sooner the tooth is reimplanted, the better the chance for saving a tooth.

Knocked-out teeth often result from automobile, sports and play accidents, as well as fights and falls. That they do happen should make everyone attempt to become better prepared to handle such emergencies.

More often a tooth is broken, not knocked out. In these cases, gently clean dirt and debris from the injured area with warm water. Place cold compresses on the face in the area of the injured tooth, to minimize swelling, then go to the dentist immediately.

For those interested in purchasing my new first aid book, call Jones and Bartlett Publishers toll-free, 1-800-832-0034 and ask about "First Aid Essentials."