Teeth are strong, but not indestructible. A broken tooth can be extremely painful – or at least very sensitive – and is one of the leading cases attended by emergency dental clinics.
So what is a broken tooth, and what do you do if you find yourself in this situation?
Is your tooth chipped, broken, or completely knocked out?
First, we need to clear up a little confusion by defining chipped vs broken teeth, so you know what to do in both scenarios. Both chipped and broken teeth involve damage to the white enamel outer layer of the tooth, but one is more severe.
- Chipped tooth: When a corner or small portion of the tooth enamel breaks off, normally not requiring emergency dental care.
- Broken tooth: A large part of the enamel and dentine (hard inner layer) breaks off, exposing the sensitive nerves at the centre of the tooth.
- Knocked out tooth: When the entire tooth along with its root has come out entirely, this requires emergency dental care as soon as possible.
A broken tooth causes instant discomfort, sensitivity and/or pain where a chipped tooth may only result in a sharp edge without pain or sensitivity.
What do you do if your tooth is broken?
Your teeth are remarkably strong but there are some forces out there just a little stronger than can cause chips or breaks:
- Falling onto a hard surface
- Biting down on something hard (ice, rock candy, bone, pork crackle or olive seeds)
- Facial impact from sport
- Unchecked cavities that weaken teeth
- Old amalgam fillings that no longer support tooth enamel
Did you know: Midland Dental Hub is an amalgam-free clinic!
Book an emergency dental appointment
Emergency dental appointments exist for exactly these types of situations. Most of the time you will be able to get an emergency dental appointment that same day, if not immediately.
Here at Midland Dental Hub we always reserve time for emergency dental appointments in case of broken teeth, severe infection, injury and toothaches.
In case your tooth trauma happens in the middle of the night when emergency dental clinics are closed, you may need to manage the symptoms for a few hours before we can see you.
If you can’t see a dentist immediately, you can manage a broken tooth by:
- Taking over-the-counter pain relief
- Rinsing your mouth with warm water to prevent infection
- Applying ice (to the outside of your mouth) to reduce swelling
- Using gauze to apply pressure and stop any bleeding
- Covering the break with sugarless chewing gum to limit sharp edges
- Avoiding the area when chewing
- Eliminating sugary, chewy, acidic, or cold food and drink
What to do if Your Tooth is Knocked out Entirely?
If the entire tooth has come out and the root of the tooth is exposed, the process you should follow is similar to managing a broken tooth where emergency dental attention is the number one priority. However, there are a few extra considerations that must be made in this situation.
- Only pick up the tooth from the crown and avoiding touching the root
- Soak the tooth in saline or milk to keep it moist. Do not place the tooth in water as this can cause it to swell
- The tooth must remain moist at all times, you may consider placing the tooth in your own mouth if desperate. (Note: a parent shouldn’t put the tooth in their mouth on their child’s behalf, it’s important that it stays in the mouth of the person whom it belongs to).
If the patient feels comfortable enough to re-insert the tooth, that would be the ideal cause for action. In this case, they would need to grab the tooth by the crown only. Make sure they have it around the right way. Push it back in and apply some pressure. The tooth will need to be splinted by a dental professional, but eventually, the ligaments around a tooth can re-attach.
The patient will need to see their dentist as soon as possible. In this instance, at Midland Dental Hub, this patient would be prioritised. However, they are encouraged to call prior to attending the practice.
How Can a Dentist Help with a Broken Tooth?
Depending on the cause and severity of the break, a dentist is likely to perform a root canal treatment to save what remains of the tooth. Root canal treatments remove the exposed or infected nerve and provide a filling so you can resume using the tooth as normal.
In rare cases, the remaining tooth will require an extraction which can then be replaced with a denture, bridge or implant.