What to do if your tooth breaks

Even if you take good care of your teeth, accidents happen! Teeth can unfortunately break. The good news is we can help! Take a moment to learn what to do if your tooth breaks.

Honestly, we hope you will never need our guide to what to do if your tooth breaks! But if you do, this information can empower you to take swift action and make the best decision possible. 

A tooth break may range in severity from a tiny fracture to the tooth completely breaking off. The necessary treatment also ranges from no immediate treatment to a complete restoration. To assess the damage and the best path forward, see your dentist. Each situation is unique, so the information covered in this article is very general. Keep in mind this article isn’t a substitute for professional dental care.

Common Causes of Breaks and Other Dental Trauma

Before we discuss how to handle a dental emergency, let’s talk about the common (and less common!) causes of broken teeth.

  • Accidents during contact sports. Wear a mouth guard to minimize your risk.
  • Car or bicycle accidents resulting in facial trauma. Wear a seatbelt to potentially help minimize trauma.
  • Falling, tripping, or another type of accident involving facial trauma.
  • Biting down on hard objects. Avoid using your teeth as tools or biting down on hard objects, like ice cubes or unpopped popcorn kernels.
  • Chronic jaw clenching or tooth grinding. Wear a mouthguard while sleeping.
  • Untreated tooth decay and cavities. Follow your prescribed oral hygiene recommendations to minimize this risk.
  • Ongoing wear and tear from prolonged exposure to mild trauma or aging.

While you can reduce the risk by taking care of your teeth, accidents still may happen. In the event of a dental emergency, stay calm and follow the following instructions.

What to Do Immediately After a Tooth Breaks

First, contact your dentist immediately. If your mouth is bleeding, apply gentle pressure to stop the blood. If the bleeding is persistent, visit urgent care or an emergency room if you cannot see a dentist.

If you were in an accident involving head trauma, such as getting hit or a car accident, then go straight to the emergency room or urgent care. You need an examination to ensure you don’t have a concussion or another head injury. The emergency care staff may also contact a dentist and may even have one on call.

Assuming your tooth breakage wasn’t the result of a more serious accident, rinse your mouth with water, especially saltwater, to gently cleanse it.

If the tooth completely comes out, roots and all, gently place it back in its socket. Use a gauze pad to hold it by the crown, and avoid touching the root.

If it isn’t possible to replace the tooth in your mouth, then keep it in milk to preserve it. Or even better, put it in Hank’s Balanced Salt Solution (just don’t mistake this for a saline solution!). 

Use ice or a cold compress if there is any swelling, pain, or inflammation. Also, use an over-the counter-pain killer to help manage the inflammation and pain.

Depending on the situation, you may need immediate dental or medical care. In other cases, you may need to schedule an appointment during your dentist’s regular hours.

If You are Traveling When a Tooth Breaks

Sometimes a tooth might break while traveling. People often eat in unfamiliar restaurants or engage in adventure sports like skiing or surfing. If you cannot see your regular dentist because you are traveling, the American Dental Association suggests using their Find a Dentist tool if you need emergency dental care. Contact a local dentist wherever you are located for advice and triage.

While Waiting for Your Appointment

Depending on the situation, your dentist may want to see you immediately, or you may need to wait for an appointment. Here are a few tips that may help make your wait more comfortable.

  • Eat soft foods and try to avoid biting down with the broken tooth.
  • If you are in pain, take over-the-counter pain medicine like acetaminophen.
  • Rinse your mouth with saltwater to help prevent infection and inflammation.
  • WebMD suggests using a piece of paraffin, dental wax, or sugarless gum to temporarily smooth a sharp edge that may otherwise cut your tongue or inside of your cheek.
  • Keep your dentist informed of any changes in your health or wellbeing, especially if you have signs of infection, such as new swelling or a fever.

Next Steps: Seek Dental Care

When you get into your dentist’s office, they will conduct a thorough examination to assess the damage to your tooth, as well as the best treatment options. If there was trauma to the tooth or jaw, your general dentist might opt to refer you to a specialist such as an oral surgeon or endodontist.

Endodontists are dental specialists who help patients recover from dental trauma and damage. Many endodontists reserve some flexibility in their schedules for emergencies, like broken teeth. Prompt attention relieves you from pain and may even save your tooth.

Depending on the issue, you might need a protective crown or implants to cosmetically or functionally fix the teeth. Endodontists aim to save natural teeth whenever possible, so yours may recommend a treatment option that involves restoring and protecting your remaining teeth.

At Ballantyne Endodontics, we have had the privilege of treating Charlotte-area residents who are facing dental trauma. If you live near Charlotte and one of your teeth breaks, contact us immediately.

Bottom line: if you’re wondering what to do if your tooth breaks, see your dentist immediately. If your dentist indicates you need restoration after dental trauma, contact us for a consultation, or ask your dentist for a referral to see us.