When to see an emergency dentist
- Chip, break or crack any tooth, even if you are not experiencing pain.
- Suffer any type of dental injury, including your tooth breaking.
- Start experiencing pain from a tooth that has been broken for some time.
- Notice a swelling adjacent to a tooth that has been broken for some time.
What to do if you have broken your tooth
- Retain the piece of tooth that has broken. It may be a useful for the dentist to see the piece, occasionally they can re-attach it back to the tooth or use it as a template to repair it.
- Keep the area as clean as possible with your toothbrush, toothpaste and a fluoridated mouthwash.
- Avoid eating and drinking with the tooth.
- If you are in pain, take over the counter painkillers (Ibuprofen/Paracetamol). Make sure you aren't allergic and that they don't interact with any other medication you are taking. Stick to the recommended dosages and do not give Aspirin to children under the age of 16.
- If you can't get into a dentist quickly, you can often purchase temporary dental cement from your local pharmacy to protect the tooth while you wait for your appointment.
Tooth decay - A common cause for your teeth to break is due to tooth decay. The second layer of the tooth (dentine) becomes soft and the hard, outer layer (enamel) becomes unsupported which causes it to break.
Fillings – Dental fillings can weaken teeth and cause the remaining tooth structure to be more susceptible to breaking.
Dental injury – The consequences of an impact from outside the mouth that causes a tooth to break can have multiple long-term repercussions. It is critical you see a dentist as soon as possible to give your tooth the best possible prognosis.
Cracked tooth – Cracked teeth are difficult to diagnose and treat. The patient often describes a sharp pain upon biting hard food. Occasionally the cracks are so deep that the tooth cannot be saved, especially if the tooth has split and/or has suffered a vertical root fracture.
There are a wide range of treatment options for broken teeth. If the nerve/bloody supply has been exposed or contaminated with bacteria, it is likely that root canal treatment will be required to save it. If the bloody/nerve supply is healthy, the options are as follows:
Do nothing – If there is no decay or pain present, and the fractured area is easily accessible for daily cleaning. Your dentist may give you the option of monitoring it.
Smooth the tooth – If there is no decay and the fractured area is easily accessible for daily cleaning, but it is sharp and is cutting your tongue or cheek, the dentist may offer to smooth it.
Repair with a filling – It is possible to repair broken teeth with different types of filling materials. Your dentist will assess if this is possible and if it is in your best interests to do so.
Replace any existing fillings and rebuild the tooth – In some circumstances it is better to replace the entire filling if there is one adjacent to the fracture. Your dentist will assess if this is in your best interests.
Crown – If a filling is not possible, your dentist may suggest other restorations that are made in a laboratory that will help to give your tooth more strength and a better prognosis. For example, a crown is a 'tooth-shaped' hat that covers the entire tooth to help prevent it from breaking any further. Other options might include veneers, inlays and onlays.
The best ways to prevent your teeth from breaking include:
- Visit your dentist regularly at a time period specified by your dentist. Children should visit the dentist every 6 months from when their first teeth appear.
- Brush your teeth twice daily for two minutes with an appropriate fluoride toothpaste for your age.
- Clean between your teeth with interdental brushes daily, and use a daily non-alcohol based fluoride mouthwash.
- Reduce the amount and the frequency of sugar in your diet.
- Avoid hard foods such as pork crackling, crusty bread and popcorn.
- Avoid eating harder foods with teeth that you know are heavily filled.
- Wear a mouthguard when playing contact sports.
- Wear a bite raising appliance or splint if your dentist has suggested to use one so that you reduce the pressure on your teeth when grinding.
- If you have a tooth that has a large filling or you have a back tooth that has a root canal filling, discuss with your dentist and see if a crown may be suitable.