There’s no doubt about it, dental injuries can be scary. Whether you chip your tooth after a fall or knock out a molar at football practice, dental injuries usually happen so fast that it can be difficult to immediately know what to do next. No matter the extent of the dental emergency, it’s important to know you must act fast to preserve your smile. When disaster strikes, what should your next steps be to save your teeth?
1. Chipped Tooth
A chipped tooth is typically a minor dental injury where only a small portion of the enamel is damaged, usually creating a rough edge on your tooth. The first step to preventing further damage is to cover the rough edge with either orthodontic wax or sugarless gum to avoid cutting the inside of your mouth on the tooth or chipping the tooth even worse.
Once the tooth has chipped, visit your dentist as soon as possible. You can explore your options to fix the tooth, which may include using a tooth-colored filling to fill in the gap or using a crown to cover the tooth entirely.
2. Broken or Cracked Tooth
If your tooth has gone beyond a small chip and has broken or cracked, the situation is a little more serious. Depending on how much of the tooth has broken, there may be exposed nerves that can cause intense pain if not treated immediately. When being treated, you will first receive a dental x-ray to determine the severity of the tooth fracture. Once the level of the break has been established, your dentist will make you aware of your options. If the pulp of a tooth is exposed, you will most likely require a root canal and then a crown to replace the tooth to avoid further damage.
Teeth can be broken beyond what is visible to the eye, and root fractures are another threat to your smile. Root fractures can be horizontal or vertical and can mean serious trouble for your tooth. If the root is fractured below the remaining bone level, the tooth will have a poor prognosis and should be removed. If the bone is fractured around the tooth or root, there could be an opportunity for the body to heal itself if under the correct environment. A splint or wire orthodontics may be used to stabilize the tooth while the bone heals. If the bone fracture does not heal, oral surgery or tooth extraction may be the necessary treatment.
3. Knocked Out Tooth
If you have a tooth that is completely knocked out, time is of the essence. You should be seeking treatment within 30 minutes ideally. If you do not immediately receive emergency dental care, it is unlikely that your tooth will be able to reattach to its socket and you will have to explore more intensive dental options.
If you seek treatment fast enough, your dentist will first evaluate the tooth to determine if it is safe to put back into your mouth. If this is the case, your dentist will place the tooth back in its socket and use a splint to stabilize it. Splint usage continues for several weeks until your dentist can reevaluate the tooth.
When transporting a tooth that has been knocked out, there are a few important things to keep in mind. First, do not keep the tooth in water or out in the open air. Use milk or an emergency tooth preservation solution. These substances work better to preserve the root surface cells that make up the tooth. Second, never handle the tooth by the root. When picking up and transporting a knocked out tooth, it should only be held by the crown (the visible part of the tooth which is used for chewing).
If you’ve experienced a dental emergency, contact us at Excel Dental to discuss your options.
Dr. Davis and Matthews can assist you in repairing a broken, cracked, or knocked out tooth and keep you Smiling Healthy!