Chipping or breaking a tooth really hurts. If you’re looking up “how to fix a broken tooth” in hopes of finding a permanent solution you can use at home, you’re out of luck. At some point, you’re going to have to go to the dentist and get it checked out.
There is some good news, though. You can manage the pain and do a couple of makeshift, temporary fixes to help you get by until your appointment. It might be a little longer before you can get in the chair because, as we’ll discuss a little later, your chip or crack might not actually qualify as a dental emergency.
What to Do When You Chip or Break a Tooth
There are a number of ways you could end up chipping or breaking a tooth. It could be as simple as chewing on something that’s too hard or doing something with your teeth that you shouldn’t be doing. Other times it could be from getting hit in the mouth with a hard object.
Dealing With Chips and Cracks
If you do end up with a chip or crack, you might not experience any pain. Of course, you will for some of the worse cracks or a break, but oftentimes you’ll just notice an unexpected crunching sound in your mouth or a sharp edge on a tooth that wasn’t there before.
When you first identify that you have chipped or broken a tooth, the American Dental Association says you should immediately rinse your mouth out with warm water to get rid of any food particles that might be sticking around. The affected tooth will be more vulnerable, so it can be more likely to become a victim of tooth decay if not properly cleaned (and later treated by a professional).
Once you have cleaned the area, you can use a cold compress to prevent any swelling, and use one of the common home remedies for toothaches to control pain.
Dealing With Breaks or Knocked-Out Teeth
The process will be a little different if you have broken or completely knocked a tooth out of its socket.
You will want to keep track of the broken piece or dislodged tooth. The dentist may be able to salvage it if you get it taken care of quickly. The tooth needs to stay moist at all times. Put it in something like a wet piece of gauze or even in some milk to help preserve it.
If your tooth has entirely come out of the socket, try placing it back in without touching the root, if possible. DO NOT force it to go back in the socket. Also, do not leave it in if it may become a choking hazard. In that case, you would just want to preserve the tooth until you make it to the dentist’s office.
For a broken or dislodged tooth, you’re going to experience some pain and possibly bleeding and/or swelling. Using a wet compress can help control the bleeding and swelling. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, but be sure the pill doesn’t touch the area where the tooth was. It could cause further damage to the gums.
In this scenario, you need to go to the dentist right away. This is not a situation where you can wait a couple of days for professional help, especially in the case of a dislodged tooth.
Protecting Your Mouth Until You Get to the Dentist
You can do a couple of things at home to help get you by until your dentist appointment. These mostly will apply to chips and small breaks or cracks.
Many pharmacies will sell dental kits that contain paraffin wax. If you notice a jagged or rough spot on your tooth, you can soften some of that wax in your hand and apply it to the problem area. It will help you from biting or irritating your tongue or cheek area inside your mouth. Any cuts or abrasions will leave you open to infection.
If you don’t have any paraffin wax handy or can’t find any at your local store, you can use some sugarless gum in a pinch.
Whatever you do, DO NOT try to do a permanent fix yourself. Trying to file down the sharp spot could actually make the problem worse. Dentists can sometimes fix those spots and save more of your original tooth. If you file it down, you could be causing more damage and even end up having to have the tooth extracted. Just manage the pain, monitor jagged spots, and get to the dentist at your earliest convenience.
What’s an Emergency and What’s Not
Depending on the severity of your chip or crack, you may or may not be dealing with a dental emergency. So, how do you know what constitutes a dental emergency?
When it comes to how to fix a broken tooth, the deciding factors are if you are feeling any pain and if there is bleeding.
It is not a dental emergency if you aren’t experiencing any pain or bleeding. Just having an inconvenient sharp edge or rough spot on a tooth wouldn’t get you moved to the front of the line. You will just have to wait for a time that the dentist can get you into the office.
It is a dental emergency if you’re experiencing one of the following symptoms:
- Bleeding that won’t stop
- Painful swelling in or around the mouth
- Pain in the tooth or jawbone
- The tooth is knocked out or broken
For any of those symptoms, you need to go to the dentist immediately.
Get In the Dentist’s Chair
No matter how minor a chip or crack might seem, you still need to get it looked at by a professional. What looks like no big deal on the surface could end up causing more problems than you realize. Your dentist will have all of your files to look at that show if any prior issues or other concerns could come into play.
If it’s a chip or crack that isn’t really causing any pain, you can make an appointment at your convenience. If you’re having a lot of pain or you dislodged a tooth at the base, you need to get to the dentist right away.