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How To Handle a Broken or Dislodged Tooth

When your tooth breaks or gets completely knocked out, it's not just painful – it is terrifying. The first thing you need to do is call your dentist and schedule an emergency appointment. You may be wondering what you can do before the appointment. How do you make sure you're comfortable and that your tooth can be restored? If you remain calm and take some simple steps to protect yourself and your teeth, you can get through this experience in one piece. There are different things you need to do depending on whether your tooth is broken or completely dislodged.

Broken Teeth – How It Happens 

A broken tooth can be anything from a small fracture to a total split. You can break a tooth in any number of ways. The most common include:

  • Being injured (falling or impact trauma to the face)

  • Large, dated fillings which don’t support remaining enamel

  • Cavities weakening the tooth

  • Eating hard foods

How You'll Know

There may or may not be pain when you break a tooth. However, your tongue will definitely feel the sharp edges if your tooth has broken into pieces. If there is pain, it usually means the nerve inside the tooth is damaged or exposed. It might hurt when you bite down, or eat/drink hot or cold things. Your tooth may also hurt when the air hits it. The pain can be constant, or it can come and go in waves. If your tooth is just fractured, you might not know it right away. If it doesn't hurt when you bite down but does when you release your bite, you might have a fractured tooth.

What You Should Do

Aside from getting to the dentist as quickly as possible, there are some things you should do immediately after your tooth breaks. These include:

  • If you feel the tooth break, be careful not to swallow the pieces. Spit them out and keep them together in a container to take with you to the dentist. You can rinse them off if you need to, but be careful not to lose them.

  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt water to clean the wound and help prevent infection.

  • Take a mild pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to reduce swelling and help with any pain.

  • Apply pressure to the area with a piece of gauze.

  • Put a cold pack on the outside of your cheek or lips to reduce inflammation and help with pain.

  • If you can't get to dentist right away, cover the remaining tooth with temporary dental cement.

What the Dentist Will Do

The dentist will do different things depending on what type of breakage you have. Teeth may break in any of the following ways:

  • Cracked tooth: When the tooth is still together, but cracked from the chewing surface down to the nerve.

  • Broken cusp: When the tooth's pointed chewing surface breaks.

  • Serious break: When the nerve is exposed.

  • Split tooth: When the tooth splits into two separate pieces.

  • Vertical breaks/split roots: When the tooth cracks at the root and the crack spreads upward.

  • Cavity-related breaks: When decay causes your teeth to crumble or break.

Your dentist will discuss options with you, including whether or not the tooth can be saved. Most types of breaks require a root canal and a crown.

Dislodged Teeth – How It Happens

Dislodged teeth are legendary side effects of fighting. However, they can happen in other ways too. A tooth may become dislodged as a result of:

  • Biting on hard food

  • Falling

  • Trauma

  • Fighting

  • Car accidents

How You'll Know

You'll know your tooth is dislodged and not just broken if the entire top and roots have come out of your mouth. It will likely hurt if the nerves are exposed.

What You Should Do

First of all, try not to swallow the tooth. The best thing you can do is put it back in its socket until you can get to the dentist. To do this, pick up the tooth only by its top. Do not touch the roots. Then put the tooth back in its place with gauze on top. Bite down gently to hold it in.

If you can't put the tooth back, keep it in a small container full of whole milk or saliva. This will keep the roots moist until the dentist can replace the tooth. You can also put the tooth between your cheek and gums or under your tongue.

After you've taken care of the tooth, apply direct pressure with gauze to control any bleeding and put a cold compress on your face. You can also take a pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, though it is prudent to note that ibuprofen acts as an anticoagulant, meaning it prevents blood from clotting.

What the Dentist Will Do

Time is of the essence when your tooth has been knocked out. The faster the dentist can replace the tooth, the better the chance your body will accept it. When you arrive at the dentist's office, they will clean the tooth and put it back in its socket along with a stabilizing splint. You'll then wear the splint for a few weeks. After some time, your dentist will perform a root canal procedure. You will need regular checkups over the next five years to make sure the tooth stays firmly in place.

Losing a tooth can be a traumatic experience. However, with just a few simple steps, you'll be smiling again in no time.


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