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What to Do About a Broken Tooth

Visit your dentist as soon as possible if you break or crack your tooth
Read Time: 5 minutes
Mar 29, 2022

There are many different things that can cause you to break a tooth. Sports injuries, for example, particularly in sports that involve projectiles like a hockey puck or a ball. You can also break a tooth if you are hit in the face, or from a fall. Even biting down on something hard can cause you to break or chip a tooth.

No matter how you got the chipped or broken tooth, it’s important to take care of it properly. Follow these steps to care for a broken tooth.

Assess the Damage

It’s important to seek medical care as quickly as possible. Book an emergency appointment with your dentist to treat the broken tooth. If there are other injuries besides the broken tooth, you should consider going to the emergency room instead.

Keep the Tooth Pieces

If possible, keep any parts of the tooth that chip or break off. Be very careful with handling the pieces so that the dentist may be able to reattach the broken piece of tooth. If there is dirt on the piece of tooth, you can rinse it off in lukewarm water for 10 seconds, but be careful not to scrub or scrape the tooth. No matter what, do not use alcohol to try to clean the tooth.

Treat Any Symptoms

chipped tooth in mouth

While only the dentist can repair the broken tooth, there are some symptoms that you can treat yourself before your dental appointment.

Pain

If you’re in pain, you can take an over-the-counter pain killer such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Bleeding

If there’s blood, use a sterile piece of gauze or cloth to staunch the bleeding.

Swelling

A cool compress can help to control both pain and swelling. If you’re helping a child with a broken tooth, an ice pop can help.

Sharp Edges

Sometimes, a broken tooth can result in a sharp or jagged edge. To avoid cutting your tongue or cheek on the tooth, cover the sharp edge with either sugarless chewing gum or paraffin wax.

Eating

It’s best to avoid eating with a broken tooth, but if that’s not possible, be careful what you eat. Make sure to only eat soft foods. You should also take care to not use the broken tooth while eating.

Make a Dentist Appointment

Person in dentist chair next to dentist

A chipped or broken tooth isn’t something that you can repair yourself. After you’ve broken the tooth, the first step is to make a dentist appointment. The dentist can examine your tooth and determine the best way to fix it. Which technique your dentist uses to repair the tooth will depend on where the break is located and how bad the damage is.

Some broken tooth repair options include:

Filling

For a chip that’s on a back tooth, the dentist may choose to repair the broken tooth with a filling.

Bonding

Bonding is another option for a tooth that has only a small piece chipped off. It’s a process that adheres a tooth-colored resin to the damaged tooth and is commonly used on broken front teeth so that your smile isn’t impacted by the damage.

Crown

For a broken tooth with more extensive damage, a crown or a dental cap may be necessary. This type of repair isn’t as simple as a filling or a bonding and may therefore require more than one visit to the dentist to complete.

Veneer

If it’s a front tooth that has broken, your dentist may be able to cover the repair with a veneer, which is a shell that looks just like a natural tooth that covers the front of the tooth.

Root Canal

Some tooth breaks can be so extensive that the pulp and nerves inside the tooth are exposed. If this happens, bacteria from the mouth can get inside the tooth and cause even more damage. A root canal may be necessary to prevent further damage to the tooth.

Broken Tooth FAQs

Is a broken tooth an emergency?

Whether a broken tooth is an emergency depends on the severity of the break. A mild chip that doesn’t impact your health and isn’t painful can wait. However, if the break is severe, such as a break in which most of the tooth is broken off, there’s a lot of pain, and there’s blood, you should seek emergency treatment. You should also seek emergency treatment if other injuries are present, such as a concussion.

Can you leave a broken tooth untreated?

It’s inadvisable to leave a broken tooth untreated, even one that’s just a mild chip. This is because the break can lead to sensitivity and tooth decay and might even result in the loss of the tooth.

How long can you go with a cracked tooth?

A severely cracked or damaged tooth should be treated right away. While a mild chip isn’t necessarily an emergency, it’s still important to get it treated as quickly as possible to prevent further damage. If you wait until it hurts to treat a damaged tooth, then it may be too late for the dentist to save the tooth.

Should I brush a broken tooth?

You can still brush a broken tooth, but you should be gentle and very careful while doing so. Brushing too hard could cause pain or further damage to the tooth, especially if the nerves on the inside of the tooth are exposed. Flossing around a damaged tooth may help to reduce pain or pressure on the broken tooth.

Chipped or Broken Tooth?

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