Hearing about a bruised tooth can be alarming. Will the tooth heal? Will it actually turn black and blue? Having a better understanding of this common form of dental trauma may alleviate your fears and encourage you to explore your treatment options.
What Causes a Bruised Tooth?
Just like a bruise on your knee from falling off a bicycle, a bruised tooth is typically caused by trauma or injury. The black and blue of a body bruise are the result of capillaries bursting and darkening the surface of the skin. A similar discoloration can occur on an injured tooth. The impacted tooth might also ache from the blow to the ligaments that support it.
When dental trauma occurs (such as a sports injury or biting a hard object), the soft tissue and ligaments around a tooth absorb the impact. When this happens, it causes the capillaries around the tooth to burst and travel through the apical foramen, or the opening at the tip of the root, giving the tooth a pink discoloration.
What Does It Look Like?
The injured tooth may turn gray, which could be permanent. Your dentist will likely want to monitor a gray tooth closely since it could mean that the pulp inside it is no longer vital and is at risk for infection or decay, explains the American Dental Association, thus requiring a root canal.
A pink tooth isn’t very attractive, but luckily it may be able to heal back to its normal color. The pinkish hue could be a sign of internal root resorption, explains a case series in the Journal of Conservative Dentistry.
Treating a Bruised Tooth
According to ToothIQ, the treatment for a tooth that has suffered an impact but is not cracked or luxated (moved in its socket) often boils down to careful monitoring. Your dentist may ask you to return for a series of followup appointments. They will check for problems, such as an abscess or sensitivity. They may also take X-rays and eventually perform a root canal, if necessary.
While you are waiting for the tooth to heal and for your dentist to determine if you need further treatment, there are a few things you can do to soothe the ache.
- Begin with over-the-counter pain relievers. Inflammation from an oral injury can be painful. Medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen is often enough to treat swelling and aches. It’s unlikely that your dentist will prescribe any stronger painkillers.
- Ask about a custom mouth guard. If the damage was a result of teeth grinding in your sleep, your dentist might suggest wearing a mouth guard at night to protect your teeth and ligaments from future damage.
- See your dentist if the tooth is mobile. If you can wiggle the bruised tooth in its socket, you may need to go back for a splint. These structures made of wire, resin or nylon thread attach the movable tooth to the teeth around it, explains theJournal of Istanbul University Faculty of Dentistry. Splinting the tooth to the opposing teeth stabilize it while the ligaments heal.
- Be patient. Treatment for a bruised tooth may not happen immediately. Acting too quickly can result in unnecessary treatment, so it’s important to take time to heal and follow your dentist’s instructions. Your dentist will identify what solution is best suited for the type of trauma the tooth has experienced.
Seeking help from your dentist is crucial for treating traumatic dental injuries. If your tooth is painful or discolored, make an appointment as soon as possible to find out what you should do to treat it.