The first thing to do if your tooth has a visible chip or if you suspect a crack is to make an appointment to see your dental care professional as soon as possible. As with any oral problem, if you leave it untreated, it can get worse and result in severe complications down the line.
Immediate Care After a Chipped or Cracked Tooth Occurs
For both chips and cracks, you always first want to protect the tooth from further damage before you are able to get into an appointment with a dentist.
Rinse your mouth with warm salt water and cover the tooth with either a fresh piece of gauze or dental cement (found at most drugstores). Avoid eating or drinking as much as you can. However, if this is not possible, then try to avoid food and beverages that have extreme temperatures, are high in sugar or acid, or are hard. Also, chew on the opposite side of the mouth that isn’t affected.
A chipped tooth that didn’t affect the inner nerve may not always be noticeable, but a cracked tooth might be uncomfortable or downright painful. If you are experiencing pain, then you can take certain steps to mitigate it before your dental appointment:
- Use over-the-counter pain relief medicine
- Use over-the-counter dental anaesthetic
- Carefully floss between the tooth that is chipped or cracked to remove food debris or plaque
- Sleep with your head elevated to try to alleviate inflammation and pressure in the mouth
Professional Care After a Chipped or Cracked Tooth
Treatment of a chipped or cracked tooth depends on the type of injury and the severity of the damage. Some examples include:
- Minor chip — For minor injuries that don’t affect the nerves within the tooth, a dental care professional may use filling material or they may grind and polish the tooth to a more uniform shape. If your tooth got chipped and you still have the broken piece, bring it with you. Even if the dentist is not able to restore it, he or she can see if the broken piece is enamel or part of a filling.
- Minor crack — These are called “craze lines” and are tiny cracks that only affect the outer white surface of the tooth. Craze lines are not usually a cause for concern. However, a dentist might be able to grind and polish them to smooth them out.
- More severe crack — This is when the pieces of the tooth remain in place in your mouth, but the crack continues to spread down to the root. If not treated early, you may need a root canal or, worse, extraction of the tooth.
- Fractured cusp — When a piece of the tooth’s pointed chewing surface breaks off. There is most likely not a lot of pain, and a dentist may simply put a crown on the tooth to prevent any further damage.
- A break — When a tooth breaks, it may go deep enough to expose the nerve which causes sensitivity. When breaks occur, the dentist will most likely perform a root canal to remove exposed nerves and cover the tooth with a crown.
- A split — This is when the tooth has split vertically into two separate parts. It is usually the result of a cracked tooth that has gone untreated. A root canal may be necessary to remove any nerves and a crown will be placed on the tooth. If your dentist cannot save one or both sides of the tooth, then removal might be needed.
- A split root — This type of crack starts at the root of your tooth and extends upward. It might not be painful or show any symptoms until it becomes infected. A split root may result in the tooth having to be removed.
- Decay-induced crack — This happens when the tooth breaks due to a cavity weakening it from the inside out. If the decay is extensive, the tooth may not be saved and will need to be extracted.
Only a dental care professional can properly identify what type of crack you have and how to treat it efficiently. If you suspect you have a crack or chip in your teeth, contact Little Rock Family Dental Care today!