Chip Off The Old Tooth: What To Do When Your Break Your Tooth

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You're soaking up the last of summer by taking a scenic bike ride with friends, and suddenly your wheels hit a rock on the road. You flip over the handlebars and besides a few bruises, it seems like you're relatively unhurt. But then you breathe in and feel a sharp pain in your mouth, so you run your tongue along your teeth and realize that you've chipped your front tooth. Luckily chipped teeth are fairly common and can be easily fixed, but you should take some steps at home and then see your dentist for an emergency dental visit.

When You're Home

Cracked or broken teeth do not typically pose too much of a threat to your overall health, but they can be very uncomfortable. If the damage extends beyond the tooth's enamel, there is a risk of infection and tooth loss. You should go to a dental practice as soon as possible but while you wait for your appointment you can do the following:

  • Rinse your mouth with warm water to relieve the pain. If you can, use salt water to help prevent infection.

  • Apply pressure with clean gauze on any bleeding areas for about ten minutes, or until the bleeding stops. You can also apply pressure to a tea bag on the area.

  • Place an ice pack on your cheek or lips over the broken tooth to reduce swelling and relieve pain.

  • Put sugarless gum or dental wax over sharp areas of the chipped tooth to protect your tongue and cheeks.

  • Take over-the-counter pain medication if needed, and consume only liquid and soft foods until you see your dentist.

What Your Dentist Will Do

Most dentists will be able to provide emergency dental care to fix your broken tooth. Depending on the type of crack and where it is in your mouth, dentists will typically use the following methods:

  • Create a filling to repair chipped molars.

  • Polish the jagged edges on small, superficial chips to smooth them out.

  • Bond a front tooth, especially if you have the piece that broke off.

  • Put on a crown or cap for extensive damage.

  • Use a porcelain veneer to replace the broken section.

  • Perform a root canal if the injury has caused extensive damage to the tooth's pulp.

In a survey conducted by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, 99.7% of adults, virtually all, agreed that having a healthy smile is socially important. Keep that smile healthy and beautiful by addressing any emergency dental situations when they happen. 

Jeff Raschka