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Broken tooth

It’s easy to think that your teeth are impervious to harm, after all they are made from the hardest bone in the body, perfect for crunching and chewing all kinds of hard food, but they’re more delicate than you would think. Knocking or bruising your teeth is easier than you might imagine, and not always avoidable, so it’s helpful to know a bit about what you can do if you chip or break one of your teeth.

Accidents happen to everyone now and again, and most injuries to the mouth are caused by falls or sudden impacts, but you might find simply biting down on a hard piece of food can crack your teeth. Equally, your teeth are at risk from breaking apart thanks to lax hygiene, so brushing and flossing twice daily could save you some pain and time in the future.

What can I do about my broken tooth?

Not all broken teeth will be very painful, if it’s a superficial crack or fracture then you probably won’t feel too much discomfort, but a severely damaged tooth – or a knocked-out one – will not be something you can ignore. Your first course of action is to contact a dental professional, don’t let the situation continue without doing this, there’s nothing you can do to fix the tooth yourself, so get to an emergency dentist as soon as you can. Painless cracks or chips can possibly be repaired with composite bonding, try to hold onto the broken pieces to make the fixing process easier, but don’t remove any loose fragments that are still in the socket.

If the tooth has been completely knocked out by the root, then it’s going to be a little bit trickier to sort out. Carefully clean the tooth in warm water, holding it by the crown and rinsing the root, without scrubbing. It can sometimes help if you place the tooth back in its socket gently, to encourage it to reattach and to keep the root functioning, but this doesn’t always work and might be painful if it’s a particularly severe injury. If there is heavy bleeding, press some gauze onto the area and bite down carefully to stem the flow.

What can the dentist do about my broken tooth?

It depends on what kind of problem you are experiencing, but there are lots of things the dentist can help you with if you’ve had some type of dental trauma. Call in at the dental emergency clinic as soon as you feel pain or there is bleeding, time is nearly always an issue with these situations.

Although cracks in the enamel are not always an emergency, they can lead to the root becoming damaged or infected if it is exposed at any point. In this case, you would definitely feel some pain in the tooth, even with light pressure; this is because the nerve is no longer protected by the mineral layers. More often than not, the treatment for a cracked tooth is a root canal, this means accessing the inner chamber and removing the nerve centre of the tooth, before filling it in with either amalgam or some other type of white filling filler. Without the nerves, the tooth will die, but can still remain functional and most dentists will cover it with a dental crown instead of extracting it.

If you end up with a split tooth as a result of an accident, you will notice that it has fractured vertically but won’t necessarily be out of the socket. This can affect both molars and incisors, but is more common in molars because they generally have the most pressure put on them when biting. The positive thing about this is that molars have more roots than the front teeth; this gives the dentist a better chance of saving the tooth and avoiding an extraction. However, if there is too much damage to the whole molar, then it will probably have to be removed.

For a patient who has lost their tooth completely, it’s possible that it can be reattached if it is fixed back in its socket within an hour of removal – after this time, there is little chance that it will still be living. If this happens to you, your dentist will try to fit the tooth back in place and they may splint it to one or more of the neighbouring teeth to keep it in place. If, after a period of healing, it becomes apparent that the tooth is dead (this is common after a splinting procedure) and you will need a root canal to prevent infection.

What if my broken tooth has decayed first?

Decaying teeth will cause considerable amounts of pain before they finally fall to pieces, but your dentist won’t be able to fix it or save it if the damage is too extensive. Teeth that break down deeply from this condition have reached the final stage of decay and the only choice is extraction in some cases. In some other cases, root canal treatment may be able to save the tooth. Patients who need to have decaying teeth removed can always consider implants or a dental bridge to fill the gap, dental technology moves along at a rapid rate so there are always options available. It’s best to deal with this type of problem promptly, as gaps can affect the whole mouth and cause pressure to be exerted unevenly on remaining teeth.

Your best defence against losing teeth in this way is to make sure the rotting process never takes hold, a good oral hygiene routine of cleaning and flossing, as well as dental checks on a regular basis are essential practices for a healthy smile. Prevention is always better than cure and tooth decay can be prevented by reducing the frequency of diet sugar intake and improving oral hygiene.

When can I get dental emergency treatment?

Emergency dentists are available 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, and most people who call at the Pearl Dental Clinic for an appointment will be referred to a team member very quickly – a large percentage of patients will have received treatment within one hour of arrival at the clinic.

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