When you break a tooth, there are a few things that you can do right away to stop the pain. Ideally, you can also preserve the tooth itself. In this post, we will discuss the possible emergency fixes for a broken tooth.
Why Do Teeth Break?
Human teeth are both extremely strong and durable. That being said, they still break. There are many different possible reasons for why your teeth can break. Common reasons include:
Impact, Or Injury
Any forceful impact on your mouth, jaw or face can cause broken or chipped teeth. This is why mouth guards are mandatory in all high contact sports. Because they pose a real threat to your teeth. Broken teeth can also be the result of an unexpected impact. For example, a car accident or severe fall.
Your teeth are made up of a variety of different nutrients and minerals. The two main components of teeth are the enamel, which the outer layer; and dentin which is the layer underneath. Both of these are mineralized with the enamel being the stronger and more mineralized of the two.
Certain genetic, environmental or dietary health issues can affect the strength of your teeth during their formation. Therefore, you may be unfortunate in that your teeth are not as strong as most people’s’ teeth. This can make your teeth more prone to decay or even fracture.
Poor Dental Care
Although teeth are highly mineralized and very hard, the acid from bacteria within dental plaque (the soft layer that grows on your teeth) will soften and attack the enamel. If enough tooth is affected, a part of the tooth can be weakened and may fracture.
A lot of this can be avoided by good at home dental care; a reasonable diet and regular dental visits to identify and fix the problems you cannot see. It is important to see your dentist frequently, around every 6 months. To maintain proper oral health care and prevent or catch any signs of oral health problems quickly.
Clenching And Grinding
Many people clench or grind their teeth. They may do this during the day, often at times of stress, heavy concentration or anger. Others may do it during the nighttime (myself included) while sleeping. They may be totally unaware that this is going on. During sleep, it only happens for less than a minute at a time. Although it may not seem like much, over the years, it does become significant.
I have seen several instances whereby my patients have fractured a tooth in half due to clenching and grinding. These were not even teeth that were compromised by fillings or cavities these were perfectly intact teeth!
To understand how this can happen, studies have shown that normal chewing and swallowing makes very brief tooth contacts and the total time is only ~17 minutes per day. Most of these contacts are extremely light (<100 psi).
In comparison biting into a hard food such as a nut will generate harder forces of ~200-300 psi, but the duration is still brief. Clenching or grinding, however, generates forces of ~500-1000 psi and these forces are often sustained for seconds to minutes at a time. A good method of prevention is to have your dentist fit you for a nighttime appliance called a bruxing guard or night guard.
Temporarily Fix A Chipped Tooth
When you chip a tooth, you should see a dentist ASAP in order to get it fixed properly. Depending on the severity of the chip, your dentist may be able to rebuild the full tooth using dental bonding (ie a filling), or if it is extremely small it may be sufficient to polish the sharp edges.
The biggest problems with a chipped tooth are either that there is a sharp area cutting part of the mouth, or it is very sensitive to temperature and touch. The best is to see your dentist ASAP. However, if you are waiting for your dental appointment, here are some things you can do to help until you can be seen.
Manage The Pain
If you are in pain, take an over the counter painkiller like Tylenol or Ibuprofen. If your tooth is clearly chipped and there are no loose pieces try to keep it clean with brushing or alternatively gargle with salt water. This can help to disinfect the area and keep bacteria out of any openings. Gargle with salt water gently as you do not want to dislodge anything else in your mouth or create more damage.
Avoid chewing on that tooth if possible, especially hard foods. It may be weak and if so further chewing could cause it to break even more.
Fix Sharp Spots
If the chip is sharp or jagged, you can use dental wax to cover it up and keep it from cutting the inside of your mouth. Dental wax can often be purchased from a pharmacy in the area where toothbrushes are sold.
In a real emergency situation, you can even use a piece of chewing gum (sugarless!) to temporarily cover the chipped area and avoid cutting yourself. Another option is to purchase a temporary filling material (also from a pharmacy) and apply it to the area after you have cleaned it thoroughly.
Identifying A Dental Emergency
If you are in a lot of pain and or bleeding, you have swelling, fever or generally feeling ill you no doubt have an emergency situation. It should be assessed as soon as possible.
The severe pain could be because the nerve of the tooth has been affected. There are broken pieces of the gum that are causing pain as they move, or that you have an infection developing. You should visit your dentist immediately if this is the case and make sure to let them know what type of symptoms you are experiencing.
Visit Your Dentist
Even if you have found a temporary self-fix for your tooth, it is essential that you see a dentist as soon as possible so that the situation can be repaired. If you neglect your chipped or broken tooth it can lead to an oral infection, more severe cracks and fractures as well as further pain. Book with your dentist and let them know what has happened. Only your dentist can permanently fix your broken tooth.