Breaking a tooth is traumatic, but quick action and a visit to the dentist can typically fix the damage and helps to prevent long-term problems. Teeth break as a result of forceful impacts, such as those that occur in car accidents or sports, or due to dental problems such as large cavities or lost fillings. Whatever the cause may be, a dental visit is needed either immediately or as soon as is convenient, depending on how badly the tooth is broken.
What Happens When a Tooth Breaks
A broken tooth can range from a chip in the hard enamel exterior to the complete breakage of an area, leaving the dentin and pulp exposed. Tooth enamel contains no nerves or blood vessels, according to the Harvard Medical School, so enamel loss may cause no pain. When the dentin or pulp is exposed to the air, however, the tooth often hurts. Bacteria can infect exposed pulp over time, causing more pain, discolouration of the remaining enamel and sensitivity to temperature changes. There may also be pain from the injury that broke the tooth, whether or not the dentin or pulp is exposed.
What Happens After
The correct treatment for a broken tooth depends on the extent of the damage. If the dental pulp becomes infected with bacteria, it can die over time. The dead pulp then must be removed and treated in a root canal procedure. If the pulp is not infected but the tooth is missing a chip, a dental crown or filling should be able to restore the tooth. In some cases, the tooth may be too broken to be able to restore with a crown or a filling, and an extraction may be needed. In this situation, your doctor can discuss replacing the tooth with either a bridge or a dental implant.
Precautionary measures such as sports mouthguards help prevent broken teeth, but sometimes accidents still happen. When a tooth breaks, following a few simple steps can help dentists provide the best possible treatment. Eventually, they will restore your smile.