How to Treat a Broken Tooth
While human teeth are extremely strong, under certain circumstances they can break, chip, or fracture. This can cause severe pain and makes your teeth susceptible to infection and further damage. If you think you’ve broken a tooth, it’s very important to visit the dentist as soon as possible. In the meantime, there are a few steps you can take to alleviate your pain and keep the tooth as healthy as possible.
Knowing if You Have a Cracked Tooth
Look for a sudden pain right after impact or chewing something hard. If you crack your tooth severely enough, you’ll probably feel significant pain right after the injury. If you experience this, examine the tooth that hurts and see if there is a piece missing. If so, you’ve indeed cracked a tooth.
- Also keep in mind that you may still have a shard of tooth in your mouth. This can cut you if swallowed, so try to spit it out if it’s still in your mouth. Save the shard if you have it.
Note erratic pain in your tooth. If your crack is less severe, you may not feel immediate pain. Instead, you’ll probably experience a more dull pain that comes and goes. Often your tooth will hurt when you’re chewing or when you eat very hot or cold foods. If you experience this kind of pain, it would be a good idea to investigate further.
Examine your tooth for visible cracks or damage. If you suspect that you may have cracked a tooth, a visible inspection should help confirm your suspicions. Look for a visible crack or missing section of your tooth.
- You might also be able to feel the cracked tooth if you can’t see far enough into your mouth. Try carefully rubbing your tongue around your teeth. If you encounter a rough or pointy section, this would indicate a crack.
Look for swelling or inflammation around the cracked tooth. If you have trouble finding the crack, you can also look at your gums. The gum line around a cracked tooth may swell and turn red. Look for this symptom to help locate your cracked tooth.
Schedule an appointment with a dentist. Whether you know for sure you cracked your tooth, or are just having pain and can’t locate it, visit your dentist as soon as possible. Cracked teeth are treatable, but it is important to visit the dentist as soon as possible to prevent further damage. In the meantime, there are a number of steps you can take to protect your mouth and alleviate your pain.
Treating the Injury Until You Visit the Dentist
Save the shard of tooth if you have it. Sometimes the dentist is able to reattach the portion of tooth that broke off, so you should save it if you can. Take the shard and put it in a container with milk or saliva to keep it from rotting. Then bring it with you when you visit the dentist.
- You should never try to reattach the portion of tooth yourself. Not only will this not work without proper equipment, but you’ll cause severe pain for yourself if you poke an exposed nerve.
Rinse your mouth with salt water. Your mouth is full of bacteria, and any injuries can get infected easily. To help stave off infection, rinse your mouth with a salt water solution when you know you’ve broken a tooth.
- Mix 1 tsp of salt into 1 cup of warm water.
- Swish the mixture around your mouth for 30 to 60 seconds.Concentrate on the injured area.
- Be sure not to swallow any of the mixture.
- Repeat this rinse after meals.
Take over the counter pain relievers to help with the pain. If you’ve damaged your tooth badly, the pain can be severe. You can treat it with OTC pain relievers until you go to the dentist and get it fixed.
- Ibuprofen products like Motrin and Advil are usually preferred over acetaminophen because ibuprofen also reduces swelling in addition to treating pain. But if ibuprofen isn’t available, take an acetaminophen product like Tylenol.
Cover sharp edges with dental wax. Sometimes a chip in the tooth will produce a jagged edge that could cut your tongue or gums. To prevent damage to your mouth, cover the edge with dental wax. You an purchase this in the oral care aisle of most pharmacies.
- Alternatively, you could also cover the edge with a piece of sugar-free chewing gum.
Be careful when eating until you see your dentist. It’s possible that you won’t be able to see your dentist for several days after you crack your tooth. In this case, you’ll have to eat before your appointment. Take the following measures to reduce pain and prevent further damage when eating.
- Stick with soft foods. The cracked tooth is weakened and susceptible to further damage. Hard foods could make the crack worse and cause pain. Opt for soft foods like pudding, soup, and oatmeal until your doctor performs the necessary work.
- Don’t eat anything especially hot or cold. The cracked tooth will be sensitive to extreme temperatures, and very cold or hot foods can cause pain. Serve food at room temperature to avoid any problems.
- Try to eat on the unaffected side of your mouth. Any chewing can cause pain and further damage, so if possible you should avoid chewing with the cracked tooth.
Knowing Your Dental Options
Have the tooth contoured. If the crack or chip in your tooth was slight, the dentist might opt to contour it. This involves shaving down and polishing the crack to make it smoother and unable to cause any cuts or abrasions. This is a simple fix that should involve minimal pain and only one visit to the dentist.
Fill the crack in. If the crack has left an opening in your tooth, then your dentist will probably choose to fill it in like a cavity. This involves using a filling material usually silver amalgam or plastic to fix the crack in the tooth. The filling will prevent anything from getting stuck in the hole and will keep it from getting bigger.
Place a crown on your tooth. If the crack is large enough, the dentist may have to use a crown to repair the tooth. These are usually made of metal or ceramic, and designed to mimic the appearance and strength of a tooth.
Have a root canal. If the tooth has been badly damaged and the nerve or pulp is exposed, the dentist may have to perform a root canal to save the tooth. The dentist will thoroughly clean and disinfect the inside of the tooth to prevent infection and hopefully this can prevent extraction of the tooth.
- If you have a root canal, the dentist may also place a crown on the tooth afterwards to protect it.
Have the tooth extracted. If the tooth has been severely damaged, it may have to be extracted. This is usually done when the crack in the tooth extends below the gum line and can’t be reached for repair. To relieve your pain and prevent a severe infection, the best option here is to remove the tooth completely.
- When you have a tooth extracted, ask your dentist what your options are for replacing the extracted tooth.