Even though tooth enamel is one of the hardest elements in your body, it’s not invulnerable. If tooth enamel wears away enough, it can leave your teeth fragile and capable of fractures or breakage. Knowing what to expect and what to do with a broken tooth could help you handle the situation like a pro!
What Causes Teeth to Break?
Several things can cause tooth breakage. Even healthy teeth can crack or break due to trauma, like a head injury. Other causes of tooth breakage include:
- Weakened tooth due to previous dental work.
- A cavity that weakened the tooth.
- Sometimes you can get a cracked wisdom tooth due to its position or how it emerges.
- Biting down on something hard, like ice.
- If you have a misaligned bite, you could be at risk for a chipped or cracked tooth.
What Does a Broken Tooth Look Like?
Chipped front teeth, hairline cracks in teeth, or a tooth that broke in half all look (and feel) different but involve the same general issue. You may have fragments of a tooth that fall out or a split tooth that looks more like a fracture. Some people can’t see the entire break, especially if it’s a vertical crack in the tooth near the back or between teeth.
Is a Broken Tooth a Dental Emergency?
From a small chip in a tooth to a molar that broke off at the gum line, tooth breakage can present in different ways. Even if your broken tooth appears minor, it could be a symptom of a bigger problem that could lead to further damage. If you experience a broken tooth, it’s not usually an emergency but you should see your dentist as soon as possible.
Treatment for a Broken or Fractured Tooth
Even a small chip in a tooth could lead to a bigger problem if left untreated. Your dentist can perform a complete exam and take x-rays to assess the damage and determine the proper course of treatment.
1. Polishing and Bonding
Dentists can sometimes repair slight chips or cracks by polishing the surface. They may apply dental bonding to fill some spaces and then polish more to get the proper shape. It may even be possible to reattach bits of broken teeth.
2. Fillings and Root Canals
3. Surgery and Extractions
Some cases can be more complex, especially with a broken molar. Since molars have more than one root, it’s possible that only one suffers from the fracture. In those instances, the dentist can perform a root amputation, known as a hemisection, and save the remainder of the tooth.
Unfortunately, extracting a broken tooth is sometimes the only solution. Tooth extraction is most often reserved for cases where the fracture extends below the gum line or if you have a split tooth. Usually, the dentist then suggests a dental implant to replace the missing tooth.
What Happens If You Leave a Broken Tooth?
A cracked tooth is susceptible to further damage and even infections. If you leave a broken tooth untreated, you run a greater risk of losing the tooth. The affected tooth could even impact the teeth beside it and infections can spread to other parts of your body. That’s why it’s so important to have every chip and fracture examined by a dental professional.
What Can I Do If I Have a Broken Tooth?
If it happens to you, your first thought may be “why did a piece of my tooth break off,” abruptly followed by a feeling of panic. Knowing what to do if a piece of tooth breaks off can help you get the best results. It’s important to contact your dentist as soon as possible to prevent further damage and infection, but there are some steps you can take.
- Rinse your mouth out with water. Warm salt water can be soothing and cleansing.
- If it’s bleeding, apply clean gauze to the area to stop it.
- Apply cold compresses to ease pain and swelling.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers can alleviate discomfort and inflammation.
- If you have jagged edges that could irritate or injure the soft tissues of your mouth, you may want to pick up an emergency dental kit that contains wax to cover the area.
- For a dislodged permanent tooth, try to put it back in position or preserve it in a glass of milk.
Remember, it’s possible to have a fractured tooth, even a broken molar, with no pain. That doesn’t mean you should let it go untreated. Even though it’s probably not an emergency, you should seek professional care to try to save your tooth.
If you have a chipped, cracked, or broken tooth, the team at Jefferson Dental & Orthodontics can help. Our team can evaluate your tooth and explain all treatment options thoroughly. Book an appointment at the office nearest you!