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While it is possible to self-treat for some illnesses or injuries, a broken tooth is not one of them. Unfortunately, accidents frequently occur outside of typical dentists’ office hours. If tooth decay or an injury results causes a break, you need to know what to do until you can get to a dentist.
You can end up with a broken tooth in several ways. The two main culprits are tooth decay and injury and they can lead to chips, fractures, and breaks, which can sometimes create real problems. While a broken tooth often causes pain, it may not, depending on the extent of the damage. If there is pain, you may wish to apply an ice pack — but only use ice outside the mouth — to help reduce swelling and ease tooth pain. Using ice inside the mouth could create more pain especially if there is nerve damage. You can also take over-the-counter pain reliever.
Bleeding may occur as well. Place sterile gauze inside the mouth, gently packing it around the tooth. Bleeding should only last for a few minutes. Be sure to rinse your mouth gently once bleeding stops. If bleeding is heavy or continues for more than 10 to 15 minutes, consider calling the emergency room for advice.
Even if there is no bleeding or pain, there are certain steps you should take to protect your tooth until you can receive treatment. If the broken piece or pieces can be collected, rinse them carefully and be sure to set them aside in a safe place. Your dentist may be able to use them to repair the broken the tooth.
It’s not a good idea to attempt to reconstruct a broken tooth yourself. However, after rinsing your mouth well and setting aside the pieces, you may be able to cover or fill the hole with a temporary treatment until you can get to the dentist. Many drug stores and pharmacies sell small containers of dental cement that can be used for temporary treatment. This option is not recommended for long-term use as infection may develop.
If the break is not serious, very little if any treatment will be required. It’s still a good idea to see your dentist and let him or her decide the best course of action. Minor chips or fractures may simply require a bit of filing and polishing, while somewhat larger breaks may need to be cemented. If the break is serious, it may need to be extracted or you may need a root canal.