How does broken tooth happen?
Although human teeth are made to be extremely tough, they can – and they actually do – break. This may occur in several ways:
- After biting down on a hard object or food item
- After being hit on the mouth when participating in a sport or other activity
- When you fall flat on your face
- When your tooth decay or cavities advance to such an extent that your tooth becomes weak and breaks
- When dental treatment, such as fillings or crowns, goes awry and causes breakage
When a tooth breaks, it may or may not hurt. Minor breakages typically don’t cause pain or discomfort, but if a larger piece of the tooth comes off, it can result in pain – which can range anywhere from mild to severe. Your tongue will also be able to feel the rough, jagged edges of the broken area easily.
Why does broken tooth pain happen?
Extreme broken tooth pain occurs when the breakage exposes the pulp (soft tissue inside the tooth which consists of nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue). Pain, discomfort or sensitivity may also be felt when the dentin (the bony tissue forming the bulk of the tooth beneath the enamel) becomes exposed after breakage. The pain from broken tooth/teeth may be felt continuously or it may come and go. Some people feel broken tooth pain when their teeth are exposed to air or very hot or cold food items or beverages. Others feel tooth pain when they bite or chew, or when they put pressure on the broken tooth. But whatever the case, broken tooth pain can be source of serious discomfort that could interfere with your daily life.
How do you tell if your tooth pain is caused by a broken tooth?
Identifying the specific cause of tooth pain is important in determining the right approach for dealing with it. However, tooth breakages are sometimes invisible to the naked eye and tend to be unidentifiable through x-rays. How can you tell if your toothache pain is as a result of a broken tooth?
Here are some things you could do:
- Identify the tooth with pain: Determine the affected tooth by identifying the area of the pain. The gum area that is most painful will hold the affected tooth.
- Use your tongue to feel the tooth: Your tongue will feel the sharp edges of the affected tooth. So run it over the tooth that you believe is broken.
- Do a visual inspection of your tooth: Visually inspect your broken tooth using an efficient light and the bathroom mirror. Alternatively, get a small dental mirror and use it to inspect your tooth from different angles.
- Take note of the things causing you pain: Try to determine how heat, cold, and the pressure of biting affect your supposedly broken tooth.
By determining the exact source of broken tooth pain, you can help your dentist identify and treat the problem.
What can you do if you have broken tooth pain?
The first thing you should do is to try to get an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.
In the meantime, before you get to your dentist, try these self-care tips.
- Try to save any broken tooth piece. Sometimes it’s possible to reattach a broken tooth piece. This is usually done as a temporary fix before a permanent solution is found. If possible, put the fragments or piece of tooth in a saline solution or in a small amount of milk in a container.
- Rinse your broken tooth and mouth with warm water. But don’t scrape the roots.
- Practice basic first-aid measures. Use a piece of gauze or tissue to apply pressure on any breeding area. Apply a cold compress to help deal with any pain and/or swelling.
- Wear a mouthguard or find another way to protect your broken tooth.
- Contact your dentist.
What are the different treatment options for broken tooth pain?
The treatment for broken tooth pain involves treating the problem – broken tooth; and implementing various toothache pain relief strategies.
The treatment for a broken tooth depends on:
- The severity of the breakage
- Whether there’s an infection or tooth decay
- Whether or not there’s an accompanying problem like a crack or fracture to the root
- Individual preferences and budget
Here is a list of the common treatments for broken tooth, starting with the simplest:
- Smooth off rough edges: If the tooth break is small and there’s no sensitivity or decay, all it takes to get you smiling again is smoothing out jagged edges of the broken tooth and polishing it.
- Bonding: If the tooth breakage is too large to be simply smoothed off and there’s some sensitivity to cold or hot substances, adding composite resin filling material to the affected area may help deal with the pain and discomfort. The resin material is shaped to mimic the original tooth and it will not only protect the exposed inner layers underneath, but also restore your teeth appearance and smile. But this only works if there’s no tooth decay or pulpitis.
- Filling: If the broken tooth has occurred as a result of faulty filling or on an old filling that has caused an infection, then the only option is to remove all of the old filling material as well as any tooth decay, and place a new filling. While this may not give the best aesthetic appeal, it can help restore the tooth’s appearance and functionality. It can be a good choice if you are not really concerned about cosmetic appearance.
- Dental crown: Putting a crown or cap over the broken tooth is another way to restore teeth functionality and appearance whilst also dealing with pain. It can be a good option if your tooth break is too big for a filling treatment. The dental crown is typically stronger than filling material and mimics the look of a tooth, thereby providing a better option.
- Root canal treatment: This procedure is usually recommended for treating a broken tooth in which the nerve or pulp tissue has become inflamed or infected. It involves cleaning up the canals inside of the tooth to remove infected tissue and sealing them up to prevent bacteria getting back in. Once the infection is removed, the broken tooth is re-built using a cap or crown.
- Getting a broken tooth pulled: If the root of the tooth is severely broken, then there’s no other option but to remove the broken tooth, and replace it with an implant, denture or a bridge. Obviously, tooth extraction is carried out as a last resort when all other options have been exhausted.
How do you deal with broken tooth pain at home?
Sudden broken tooth pains can lead to extreme discomfort. So much so that it can hinder you from getting to your dentist as soon as possible. We understand this and that’s why we’ve come up with a list of quick pain relief techniques for broken tooth that you can use to hold pain at bay until you can get treatment. Many of these techniques utilize items that can be found in almost every household, including in your home.
But it’s worth noting that these broken tooth pain relief techniques are only temporary and can never be a substitute for seeking the right dental help.
- Avoiding very cold or hot food or beverages: Avoid these if your tooth is sensitive to them.
- Staying away from sugary and/or acidic foods and drinks: Avoid sugary and acidic foods to prevent inflammation and irritation of your broken tooth.
- Elevating your head when you are asleep: If you aren’t able to see your dentist until the following day, this could help you sleep easy.
- Sealing the crack temporary: Use dental cement to cover the affected area.
- Cloves and oil-of-cloves: These are effective natural pain relievers that can give you fast relief from tooth pain.
- Painkillers: Use over the counter pain relievers to get rid of that throbbing pain. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen can effectively reduce the pain that comes with broken tooth. Try them, but be careful if you’re pregnant.
- Myrrh: This compound helps fight inflammation and kill bacteria.
- Ice: Ice helps numb the nerves and dull tooth pain.
- Asafetida: This natural remedy can help with bleeding gums and toothache pains.
- Turmeric: Turmeric is known to possess pain relieving abilities and also comes with antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties.
- Benzocaine: Numbing the affected tooth using a benzocaine topical product is a simple way to dull broken tooth pain. It can be very helpful if you’re unable to reach your dentist quickly.
- Sore mouth rinse: Rinsing your mouth may also help dull tooth pain, so try this: dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water and then swish the mixture in your mouth for about 30 seconds.
Now you have it – everything you need to know about broken tooth pain, including causes and treatments and home remedies. With all this information at hand, it’s easy to deal with this type of pain by practicing first-aid basics, determining the affected tooth and cause of breakage, and stopping the pain using the effective remedies outlined.
What a doctor can do
Only a dentist can actually fix a broken tooth. It’s urgent that you call a doctor or dentist right away if your broken tooth is accompanied by a fever or if you have signs of infection (redness, swelling, discoloration, or skin warm to the touch).
A dentist will also be able to assess damage and look for signs of infection. The type of treatment you need depends on the kind of crack you have.
5 things to know about a broken tooth
- A minor crack on the tooth’s surface usually doesn’t need repair.
- A chip broken off your tooth may just need polishing to soften the edge.
- A tooth cracked all the way to its core will need to be filled. If the crack hurt nerve tissue, you may also need a root canal.
- Very broken teeth may bleed and require surgical treatment to save the tooth and its root. Sometimes the break starts on the cusp (chewing surface) of the tooth and sometimes it starts down in the root (under the gums).
- If your tooth was broken by decay (build-up of plaque that causes cavities), your dentist will decide if the tooth needs to be removed.
If you break a tooth, call your dentist right away.
If the accident occurs after office hours, still call your dentist as they may have an answering service. If it’s after hours and you’re in a lot of pain, you can go to an emergency room or urgent care.
There are different kinds of breaks in teeth. It’s most important you see a dentist to treat the problem and prevent complications, no matter the cause.
But there are ways to manage the pain at home until you can get help such as ice for swelling, avoiding hard foods, and over-the-counter medication.