Let’s say you were out to dinner with friends, you bit down on something wrong, and found yourself with a piece of your teeth on your plate. Or maybe you were having a leisurely bike ride, took a tumble, and now find yourself with a jagged, broken tooth in your mouth. No matter how it happens, chipped or cracked teeth aren’t as uncommon as you’d think.
Despite your tooth enamel being the hardest substance in the human body, nothing is indestructable, and we put our teeth through a lot. And of course, decay can weaken teeth and make them more likely to break, so an untreated cavity could result in something as harmless as a potato chip triggering a crack.
When you find yourself with a broken tooth, what should you do? Here’s the breakdown of the steps to follow to avoid further damage and discomfort.
See Your Dentist
Most of the time, a chip or crack will cause only minor discomfort, and maybe some pain when you bite or drink hot or cold liquids. But if you have a severely broken tooth and are bleeding, step one is to rinse your mouth with warm water and apply pressure with gauze to stop the bleeding. An ice pack applied to the jaw can help temporarily treat pain and swelling in the area, and an over-the-counter painkiller like acetaminophen can help as well.
The next step, of course, is to see your dentist. Even though some chipped or cracked teeth don’t cause immediate pain, that doesn’t mean that the nerves and blood vessels in your tooth are undamaged. And while a crack may be minor at first, it can worsen over time if not addressed. Your dentist will be able to investigate the tooth and see how much damage has been done, and what the best method is to correct it.
Treating a Damaged Tooth
Depending on what has happened to your tooth, your dentist may present a few different treatment options. For example, if the tooth is chipped or cracked in a minor way and has not caused any damage to the nerve or root of the tooth, your dentist may use tooth-colored fillings to fill the damaged area and prevent the crack or chip from growing.
If the damage is serious, you may need a root canal, and a crown may be required to preserve the tooth from further harm.
In truly severe cases, the tooth may have to be completely removed. But don’t worry, you don’t have to live with a gap in your smile — there are plenty of options to replace missing teeth. Dental implants are a reliable, permanent solution that function just like your natural teeth, and are indistinguishable from your real teeth to those around you. Dental bridges can also replace missing teeth; these replacement teeth are fused to dental crowns that anchor them to neighboring teeth.
If you chip or crack a tooth, it’s important to see your dentist to learn how serious the problem is. Then, you can learn what sort of structural and aesthetic corrections can be made to correct the problem.