Few things are more upsetting than suffering with a broken tooth, or seeing your child with one. Any number of things can cause a tooth to chip or break: falling, being hit in the mouth, chewing something hard, using your teeth to open a bottle (never a good idea!) or leaving a temporary filling in for too long.
If your tooth chips or breaks, call your dentist immediately. If you don’t do anything about it, the tooth could be damaged further or become infected, possibly causing you to lose it altogether. Here are some immediate steps you can take until you see your dentist.
- If the tooth is painful, take an over-the-counter pain reliever.
- Rinse your mouth with salt water.
- If the broken tooth now has a sharp or jagged edge, cover it with piece of sugarless chewing gum to keep it from cutting your tongue or the inside of your lip or cheek.
- Eat soft foods and avoid biting down on the broken tooth.
When you do see the dentist, he or she will assess your problem and tailor the treatment to your individual needs.
For example, if you have chipped off just a small piece of tooth enamel, the dentist may repair the damage with a filling.
Veneers or Bonding
If the broken tooth affects your smile, your dentist recommend veneers or bonding to make the tooth look whole and natural again. First, your dentist will etch the tooth’s surface with a liquid or gel to make the tooth more adhesive. Then the adhesive material is applied to the tooth, followed by the bonding material. Your dentist shapes the bonding material to look like your natural tooth and then uses an ultraviolet light to harden the bonding.
If a large piece of tooth has broken off or a lot of decay exists, the dentist may grind part of the remaining tooth and cover it with a crown to protect the tooth.
Getting a crown usually takes two visits. During the first visit, your dentist will take X-rays to check the roots of the tooth and surrounding bone. If no further problems are detected, the dentist will make room for a crown, take impressions of the tooth and place a temporary crown on the tooth.
During the second visit, typically two to three weeks later, your dentist will fit the permanent crown into place.
When a broken causes the tooth pulp (root) to be exposed, bacteria in your mouth can get into the pulp and cause an infection. Signs of an infections include tooth pain, changes in tooth coloration and sensitivity to hot and cold. If the pulp is not removed, the tooth can also become infected and will then need to be extracted. During a root canal, we remove the dead pulp, clean the root canal and then seal it.
Root canals save teeth that might have needed to be extracted in decades past. Most root canals are no more painful than having a cavity filled. In most cases, the remaining tooth must be covered with a crown to protect the tooth.
If the injury to your fractured or broken tooth is serious, ask your dentist whether the tooth can be saved. Your dentist should be able to tell you whether fixing or repairing your tooth is possible, in their hands or in those of another specialist.
Be sure to visit your dentist regularly. Dental health is crucial to keep that winning smile.