General Dentistry |3 min read

What to Do When You Break a Tooth

Your teeth are incredibly strong but they can fracture or break and the risk increases as we age. How this occurs depends on the situation but there are several common reasons teeth break:

  • You bit down on something hard
  • You were struck in the face or mouth
  • You fell
  • The tooth is weakened and has a cavity
  • You have large, old fillings that no longer support the enamel of the tooth

When your tooth chips or breaks, it might not hurt, especially at first. However, your tongue will quickly find the sharp edges, which can be unpleasant. Breaking a tooth also puts you at risk of damaging the nerve inside and when that happens you’ll experience extreme discomfort including pain. This is because the nerve endings in the dentin are exposed to air and hot or cold food or drinks.

Breaking a tooth can cause constant pain or pain that comes and goes. You’ll most likely feel pain when you chew because chewing puts pressure on the tooth.

So what do you do with a broken or cracked tooth?

Cracked Teeth

The fact is you can’t treat a cracked tooth at home. The only thing you can do is minimize the pain until you can get to the dentist’s office. Even if your tooth looks fine, you may experience pain when you drink or eat something. If you experience pain by eating or drinking, the nerve and blood vessels are most likely damaged. Don’t ignore this warning sign.

If you’re still trying to determine whether the tooth is cracked or broken, a good rule of thumb is to bite down and release. If pain occurs when you release the bite, then it’s most likely cracked.

Broken Teeth

Anytime you experience tooth pain you should see your dentist, but if you have a broken tooth you should get to the office as soon as possible. Your dentist will be able to determine the cause of the break (such as a cavity) and see if the nerve is at risk. If the nerve sustained damage then you will probably need a root canal treatment.

If the break occurs and you can’t get to the dentist right away, here’s what you can do: 

  • Rinse your mouth with warm water.
  • Use a piece of clean gauze to apply pressure to any bleeding areas. This should be done for at least 10 minutes or until the bleeding ceases.
  • If the gauze doesn’t work, use a tea bag and light pressure to stop the bleeding.
  • Keep a cold pack on your cheek or lips over the broken tooth to decrease swelling and minimize pain.
  • If you have to wait to get to your dentist, take some temporary dental cement and cover the tooth. You can find this at your local drugstore.
  • Start taking an over-the-counter pain reliever and don’t stop when you start to feel relief.

Tooth pain is never fun and having a broken or cracked tooth can put a damper on your daily routine, especially when you’re in pain. If you believe you’ve broken or cracked a tooth, make an appointment with the dental staff at Dental Arts Dr. Deb Cassill right away. If you’re experiencing extreme pain, please call us any time of the day or night at 319-377-6504 – we’re available 24/7.

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