What to Do If You Chipped or Broke a Tooth

Man with broken tooth

Suddenly breaking or chipping a tooth can be an alarming experience. Dental accidents can happen to anybody, regardless of a person’s oral health. If you find yourself in a situation that results in trauma to your mouth, such as a chipped or broken tooth here’s what to do to help with the pain and to avoid permanent damage.

Here are the important things to remember if you break or chip a tooth.

Rinse Out Your Mouth

Immediately after chipping or breaking a tooth, try to rinse your mouth out with warm water to keep the area clean and to clear away any blood or dirt. Also, the part of your tooth that broke off may still be in your mouth and will come away with a quick rinse. This will prevent you from swallowing the tooth or damaging other teeth by accidentally biting down on it.

Stop the Bleeding

If the trauma to your mouth has caused bleeding, it’s important to apply pressure to the area with a clean towel or gauze right away. This will help the bleeding to stop and reduce the risk of swallowing excess blood. Be careful not to scrub or irritate the area as it may cause pain or increase bleeding. Just hold steady pressure on the tooth or gums with minimal movement.

If the bleeding is excessive, call 9-1-1 or go to the closest emergency room immediately. Your injuries may be more severe than just a broken tooth. Also, if the dental injury was caused by trauma to the head and you’re experiencing dizziness, you may need further medical assistance.

Try to Preserve the Tooth

If your whole tooth has separated from your mouth, try to locate it as quickly as possible. There may be a chance your dentist can save and replace it. Once you’ve found the tooth, give it a quick rinse then submerge it in milk or saline solution. If you don’t have either, keep the tooth in clean water. The faster you can get to your dentist, the better your chance is to save the tooth.

If your tooth has not entirely pulled away from its socket but is loose, leave the tooth inside your mouth. The worst thing you can do is to try and remove it yourself. This can lead to heavy bleeding and an increased risk of infection.

Apply a Cold Compress

A cold compress to the injured area will help alleviate pain and reduce swelling. The cold constricts the blood vessels and slows the blood flow to that part of the mouth. This helps minimize inflammation, numb the area, and stop the bleeding. If you don’t have a cold pack already in the freezer, fill a ziplock bag with ice and wrap it with a towel before applying.

Take an Over-the-Counter Pain Reliever

If you’re experiencing a lot of pain, try taking an over-the-counter pain reliever before heading out to see your dentist to ease the discomfort. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) not only relieve pain, but they also reduce inflammation. The most common over-the-counter NSAIDs are ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen. You can also take acetaminophen to help with the pain.

See Your Dentist As Soon As Possible

Seeing your dentist as soon as possible is the most crucial thing you can do after chipping or breaking a tooth. Even if you don’t feel any pain, you should never assume that everything is fine. Even the smallest of fractures in a tooth can severely weaken it and lead to infections and more significant dental problems down the road.

If you have somebody with you, ask them to call your dentist right away to let them know you’re coming in with a dental emergency. This way, your dentist will be prepared to help you immediately and have a better idea of what to expect. If you have your tooth soaking in milk, saline solution, or water (as mentioned earlier), be sure to bring that with you. Your dentist may be able to salvage the tooth and put it back in its socket if not too much time has passed.

Treatments for Broken or Chipped Teeth

There are several ways a dentist can choose to treat a broken or chipped tooth, depending on how severe the damage is. Here are some of the options your dental professional may consider:

  • Dental Filling – If only a small piece of your tooth has broken off, a tooth filling is often enough to repair the damage. The hole is filled with a composite resin that hardens and protects the tooth.
  • Dental Crown – When a larger piece of the tooth breaks off, there isn’t enough of the tooth’s structure left to fill with a dental filling. In cases like these, a dental crown will be used to cap the tooth to protect the sensitive nerves underneath.
  • Root Canal – In some cases, the dental pulp becomes infected when a tooth is broken. When this happens, your dentist will perform a root canal to clear away the infection before placing a dental crown on the tooth.
  • Dental Veneer – If the broken tooth is in the front of the mouth or another highly visible spot, a porcelain veneer is an excellent option to restore your smile.
  • Dental ImplantDental implants are quickly becoming the preferred option to replace a missing tooth because they look, feel, and act just like natural teeth. If your tooth has come away completely or needs to be extracted, a dental implant is an excellent treatment option. Talk to your dentist about potential dental implant risks and to see if your insurance will cover the cost of dental implants.
  • Dental Bridge – Another option for patients who need to have a tooth extracted due to damage is a dental bridge. It involves using two abutment teeth to anchor a false tooth or teeth to fill in the gap created by the missing tooth or teeth.

Again, treatments vary from case to case, and your dentist will discuss the best options available in your situation. If you are undergoing orthodontic treatment and your braces break, in addition to your tooth, you will also need to consult with your orthodontist.

Remember, seeing your dentist as soon as you can is the best thing you can do after breaking or chipping your tooth. Don’t assume everything is fine without being checked by a dental professional first. Additionally, check out these tips on how to keep your smile safe and avoid a dental emergency, including a chipped or broken tooth.

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