What to Do If You Break a Tooth
Oh no, did you just break a tooth?
Don’t panic! Accidents happen. Cracked and broken teeth are very common. What’s important is how you react and the steps you take over the next 24 hours to resolve this dental emergency.
There’s no time to waste! Here’s what to do.
1. Consider your overall health (do you need to see a doctor?)
A broken tooth does not in and of itself constitute a trip to the ER. However, how you chipped your tooth should be taken into consideration.
Often, broken teeth are a result of a fall, sports accident, or collision. If your head has suffered a traumatic blow, make sure you take care of yourself and see a doctor — particularly if you experience dizziness, disorientation, or loss of consciousness.
In general, don’t go to the ER to fix a broken or chipped tooth. For that, you’ll need a dentist!
However, if you’ve completely knocked out the tooth and there’s a chance it could be reattached, visit your nearest ER. The tooth will need to be reattached within 30 minutes to be successful.
2. Call a dentist
In the immediate aftermath of a tooth injury, you might feel a little discombobulated and unsure of what to do. Try your best to stay calm and work through these steps. The first is to call your dentist.
Your dentist is the best source of advice in this situation. They’ll ask you questions to evaluate what happened and can advise you on what to do in the interim based on your specific situation.
If you’ve lost the tooth, it’s important to get in to see your dentist within 24 hours. The sooner you call, the better chance your dentist will be able to carve out a time for you to come in.
3. Find the tooth
Don’t leave that broken tooth out on the pavement! Here’s what to do if you’ve…
- Chipped a piece of your tooth — Try your best to find and gather the pieces and place them in a clean container to take with you when you go to the dentist. Cover the tooth in the container with milk or saliva.
- Lost your tooth completely — Again, try to find the tooth. Avoid picking it up by the tooth root. Touch the crown of the tooth only. Place the tooth in a clean container. Cover the tooth in the container with milk or saliva. Visit the ER immediately. Every ER has an oral surgeon on call and can help you get your tooth reimplanted quickly — it needs to be done within 30 minutes to be successful.
You’re not rescuing your tooth just to keep it as a battle souvenir! Your dentist can gain valuable insight from looking at the pieces of a chipped tooth. And if you’ve knocked the tooth out, there’s a chance your dentist can reattach it!
Remember: a knocked out tooth is a dental emergency. You need to see a dentist as soon as possible.
4. Rinse your mouth
Depending on the specific injury, you might have some bleeding in your mouth. If you’ve lost the tooth, the bleeding is likely a result of this. But it’s possible you bit your cheek or split open your lip or tongue as a result of the injury as well. Let’s take care of that bleeding!
Go ahead and gently rinse with warm water to get a better look at what’s going on. You may need to apply some light pressure to stop any bleeding. Use a piece of gauze or a tea bag.
If the bleeding doesn’t subside after 10 minutes, call your dentist again and let them know. You might need some stitches!
5. Stop pain and inflammation
In pain? You don’t need to just grin and bear it! We recommend taking an over-the-counter pain medication right away to help with any discomfort. You can also use a cold pack. Apply it to your cheek, jaw, or lips to limit swelling and pain.
6. Cover sharp edges and be gentle when chewing
If you’ve chipped a tooth (not fully knocked it out), it likely has a sharp or jagged edge. If you’re not careful, you may end up cutting your mouth or doing more damage!
Cover the chipped edge of the tooth with a piece of wax to keep it from cutting the inside of your mouth or tongue.
Until you can see a dentist, you should also be careful about biting down on the broken tooth. Eat soft foods only or stick to smoothies or other liquids.
How to fix a broken tooth — what are the options?
You my feel apprehensive about what sort of treatments are necessary to fix a broken tooth. Often, the not knowing is the worst part!
Your dentist will look at your specific circumstances and dental health to provide the best recommendations. Since a broken tooth is more urgent, your dentist will likely have immediate recommendations based on your situation. But remember this relationship is a partnership. You and your dentist decide on a treatment plan together. You won’t be forced into any treatment you’re not comfortable with!
So what specific treatments are used to fix a broken tooth? There are few options that may be recommended:
Reattaching the tooth
If possible, the dentist may try to reattach a lost tooth. After readjusting the tooth in its socket, it will be fastened with wire or a bonding material.
Fillings, bonding, or veneers
If just a small piece of enamel or filling has been chipped off, you may need a replacement filling. Smaller chips can also be ground smooth for your comfort and to reduce the likelihood of a full fracture in the future. Other options to restore the chipped portion is some bonding material or a veneer.
Root canal & crown
If only a small portion of the tooth has broken off, a crown might help. A crown is placed on top of your damaged tooth, restoring and protecting its shape and function. If the tooth chip extends down into the nerve of your tooth, a root canal may be recommended.
Extraction & dental implant
If you’re dealing with a very severe fracture, you may need to have it removed. In this case, or if you’ve lost the tooth completely, the missing tooth can be restored with a dental implant and crown (among other options, like a dental bridge).
At Ericson Dental, we offer high-tech and modern dental implants with amazing results. Our implants are strong, stable, durable, and look just like your natural smile. They also are impervious to cavities and help strengthen your jawbone. It’s a great method for protecting your smile from breakage issues like this in the future!
Bonus: Tips for avoiding broken teeth
Chips, cracks, and breaks in your teeth are not completely preventable. Accidents happen! But in your day-to-day life, there are steps you can take to keep your teeth strong and less susceptible to fractures.
- Avoid chewing and biting down forcefully on hard objects like ice, popcorn kernels, cherry pits, or pens
- Don’t clench or grind your teeth (your dentist can create a custom mouthguard to protect your teeth at night)
- Wear a mouthguard when playing contact sports
- See your dentist every 6 months to catch any decay, old fillings, or loose crowns
How can we help?
Suffering a dental emergency? Ericson Dental offers same-day appointments and with 2 convenient locations in Lompoc and Santa Barbara, we’re here to help you when you need us, where you need us.
If you’ve lost a tooth completely, we’ll do our best to reattach the original tooth. If reattaching is not possible, our dental implant treatments to repair a lost tooth are among the best in California. We’ll ensure your brand new tooth looks and functions just like your natural smile.
Contact us and let’s take care of your broken tooth quickly!
Since graduating from the USC School of Dentistry with academic honors, Dr. Ericson has been dedicated to furthering his scope of practice and helping patients feel anxiety-free through every treatment. He has completed extensive training and continuing education, excelling at two residencies in implant surgery and multiple residencies in advanced bone grafting, gum grafting, oral surgery, and surgical orthodontics. Dr. Ericson is also a graduate of the advanced prosthodontics program at the prestigious Kois Center in Seattle, WA.