You've got a chipped, cracked, or knocked-out tooth. Now what? In this post, our Edmonton dentists explain what you can do for your teeth at home, step by step. We also share which emergency circumstances mean you'll need to visit our office right away.
Emergencies with our teeth can happen to any one at any time, whether we're playing sports, are in a car accident or have another experience that causes dental trauma. If you have a dental emergency, what you'll want to do next will depend on your specific circumstances. In this post, we'll review a step-by-step plan for dealing with a chipped, cracked or knocked out tooth.
While a chipped tooth typically isn't very serious, in some cases the damage may be deeper than it appears at first. If the chip extends deeper than the tooth enamel, there will be a risk of infection that can lead to pain and even perhaps tooth loss.
After you first realize what's occurred, your next question will likely be along the lines of how to fix a chipped tooth. If the chip is small enough, your dentist may be able to repair it with a filling. For more serious breaks, your dentist may be able to save and reattach a piece of tooth that has broken off. In some cases, a crown or root canal may be required.
A cracked tooth will have a split or crack that begins at the crown and extends down into the tooth. Signs that you might have a cracked tooth include sharp pain when biting down, sensitivity to temperature or intermittent tooth pain. It's also possible to have a cracked tooth and not experience any symptoms.
How your dentist treats the cracked tooth will depend on the severity of the crack, and the type of cracked tooth you have.
In many cases, the dentist will repair the tooth with a filling, dental crown or bonding. However, some severe cases will require a root canal or extraction.
What to Do with a Chipped or Cracked Tooth
Having a chipped or cracked tooth can trigger concern - and perhaps some physical pain. Many people wonder what they should do and at which point these types of injuries become dental emergencies.
If you believe that your tooth has been chipped or cracked, contact your dentist to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Damage to teeth cannot be repaired at home.
That said, there are some steps you can take to relieve pain and reduce risk of complications until you get to our office:
- Call your dentist to book an appointment right away. Let them know the nature of your dental emergency.
- Rinse your mouth out with warm salt water to relieve pain and help prevent infection.
- If your mouth is bleeding, use clean gauze to apply pressure to the area.
- Ice the area of your face where the chipped tooth is located to help prevent swelling
- Place sugarless gum or dental wax over the chip to act as a soft buffer against any sharp edges of the chipped tooth that may irritate your tongue or inner cheek.
- Take an over-the-counter pain relief medication such as ibuprofen to help relieve pain or discomfort.
- Only consume liquids and soft foods until you can see your dentist.
Knocked Out Tooth
A knocked out tooth is also often referred to as an avulsed tooth. The blood vessels, nerves and supporting tissues are also damaged. These teeth will need a root canal since the nerves and blood vessels can't be repaired.
However, once the tooth has been replanted, the bone can reattach to the root of the tooth (only permanent teeth should be put back in place).
While the odds of saving a tooth are highest in young children, adult teeth can also sometimes be saved if emergency care is provided within an hour of the incident.
How quick should I get to the dentist after a knocked out tooth?
It's critical to get to your dentist's office as quickly as possible after you've had a tooth knocked out. It's also important to avoid any further damage to the tooth.
If you lose a tooth due to injury or accident, a dentist may still be able to replant it by providing proper emergency care within about an hour of the incident. It's always a good idea to try to save a knocked out tooth if it is still intact (not broken in pieces).
What to Do With a Knocked Out Tooth
Here are some steps you can take to relieve pain and reduce risk of complications until you get to your dentist's office:
- Carefully handle the tooth. Try not to touch the root (the part of the tooth that's usually under the gum line), as it can be easily damaged.
- If the tooth is dirty, hold it by the crown (upper portion), then rinse it with milk (water also works fine if you don't have milk). Don't wipe it with any fabric as this may damage the tooth.
- Keep the tooth moist. Drop it into a glass of milk or place the tooth in your mouth between the gum and cheek (if the patient is a young child, have them spit it into a cup to prevent them from swallowing the tooth). Keeping the tooth moist is your highest priority.
- See if you can slip the tooth back into its socket, but do not try to force it in. In many cases, it will slip right in. Ensure it's facing the right way. If it doesn't slip easily back into place without pressure, just be sure to keep it moist in water, milk or saliva and get to the dentist as soon as possible.
What to Expect at Your Dentist's Office
Re-implanting the tooth may be a simple or complex task depending on your specific circumstances, such as whether the bone or tooth is broken. The dentist will use water to flush debris from the socket before slipping the tooth back in place.
The dentist may decide to perform the root canal right away or wait. Again, this will depend on numerous factors such as how long your tooth was out of your mouth. The tooth will be splinted on either side with a soft wire and/or composite material to hold the tooth in place for several days. Your dentist will decide how long the splint should stay in place.
For knocked out teeth without a fractured bone, roots generally take about three to four weeks to reattach. More damage to the area may need six to eight weeks to heal. The dentist will assess the tooth, within three to six months, again at your yearly checkup (unless there are signs of infection) and over the next few years to ensure re-implantation was successful.