Cracked, broken or chipped tooth? Steps to take before the dentist

If you've ever bitten down on a hard peppermint candy and felt that sharp pain, or taken...

If you've ever bitten down on a hard peppermint candy and felt that sharp pain, or taken a sip of an ice-cold drink only to recoil as it hits your teeth, you know the pain of a damaged or chipped tooth. You should always head straight to the dentist to have a chipped tooth looked at, but in the lead up to your appointment, there are steps you can take to ease the pain and limit any further damage. Here's what you can do.

Cracked and chipped teeth

Your tooth may be cracked but look just fine. Unfortunately, there is not much home repair you can do for a cracked tooth, so you'll have to see your dentist and discuss your options. Minor cracks do not require treatment, but those cracks can get bigger and need a dentist to fill and bond them. He may suggest a crown depending on the severity. Whatever you do, don't let the problem go unchecked.

For chipped teeth, the work required depends on the size of the chip. Smaller chips usually don't need any treatment except for a polish of the area to avoid any roughness or further damage. Larger chips can be covered with a crown or cap.

Broken teeth

If you break off a significant part of your tooth, there are a number of things you can do, depending on the severity of the break.

  • Save the tooth and wrap it in cheese cloth or paper towel, and place the tooth in a sealed plastic bag. Your dentist may be able to glue the broken portion back onto the remaining tooth.
  • If you are heading to the dentist, but you're worried about the broken area being sharp or rough, cover it with sugarless chewing gum. You don't want to cut your tongue, lip or any other area.
  • If you can't see the dentist immediately, you can purchase dental cement at the drug store. You should only use dental cement in rare situations when you can't see a dentist.
  • Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to avoid pain and swelling.
  • Rinse your mouth thoroughly with warm water.
  • If you're bleeding, apply pressure with gauze until the bleeding stops.

What your dentist can do

Your dentist can provide a variety of options, depending on the severity of the crack, chip or break. If part of the tooth is broken but isn't causing other issues, a cap or crown may be applied. Serious breaks may require a root canal because nerve damage is possible.

The enamel that covers your teeth and the layer under it is even stronger than bone, but sugary foods and drinks, as well as hard and chewy candy, can break down your teeth and bone over time. A healthy diet strong in calcium and vitamin D is crucial to excellent oral health. If you need advice or treatment for a broken, chipped or cracked tooth, contact your Atlanta-area dentist for more information.

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