11:59 AM

Chipped, Broken and Bruised Teeth

I hear stories all of the time about people who have accidentally chipped or broken teeth while playing sports, horsing around with friends, or even from being bumped while drinking from a bottle. Others tell stories about chewing ice cubes and feeling a sharp pain on a back tooth.

If a tooth gets chipped or damaged – you want to see your dentist as soon as possible. Your dentist will examine the tooth to tell whether the nerve has been injured. If this is the case, you may need a root canal. Early detection may put off or even avoid the root canal for years.

When a tooth chips or cracks:

1. If you can find the chip of tooth, take it with you to the dentist. It may be possible to bond large chips back onto the tooth which keeps your same familiar smile. If the chip can’t be used, the dentist has lots of tooth-colored filling materials to make your tooth look as natural as possible.

2. If you need to drink something or rinse your mouth, try something lukewarm rather than cold or hot. This not only keeps you from screaming, but it may help protect the nerve.

3. If there is bleeding, hold a clean cloth on the area until the bleeding stops --- about 10 minutes.

4. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever and call your dentist.

Sometimes a tooth may be bruised from a traumatic blow. Watch it. You will need to see your dentist if the tooth gets sensitive to temperature or if it hurts as you eat. This pain is a sign that the nerve or ligament of the tooth may be injured.

In the example of the ice chewer, there may have been a weak spot on a molar and biting on the ice created a hairline fracture. (Physics note: the back of the jaw is a lever, like a nutcracker; it generates a lot of mechanical pressure that could create a fracture in a weak area of the tooth.) Afterwards, each time this person bit down on something with the injured molar, the crack in the tooth expanded, putting pressure on the nerve, and causing pain. Once the pressure was released, the crack closed and the tooth felt just fine.

Cracked teeth can be bonded or crowned to try to stop the pain. However, if you are still feeling pain when chewing, a root canal will be the next step. Unfortunately, some cracked teeth are not repairable; they end up being extracted and replaced with a bridge or an implant.