If you have a chipped or broken tooth, do not panic and seek help from a dentist immediately. A plethora of options are available to fix a broken tooth, depending on the severity of the damage and the cause of the break. Seeing an emergency dentist as soon as possible can also prevent further damage or infection, which may eventually lead to tooth loss.
While waiting to see a dentist, follow these self-care measures:
- Take over-the-counter pain killers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol for pain. Rinsing your mouth with salt water can also help.
- Stick to a soft diet and avoid using the affected tooth as much as possible.
- If the damage has caused the tooth to have a sharp edge, you can prevent it from cutting your tongue or the inside of the cheek or lip by covering it with paraffin wax or sugarless chewing gum.
Broken Tooth Treatment
In case of a mild damage such as a small piece of enamel being broken off, it’s likely you will only need one dentist visit to rectify the problem. More severe damage may require a lengthier procedure with multiple visits. The following are a few ways a dentist may repair a chipped or broken tooth:
These are usually used when a relatively small piece of the tooth is broken. Often you will need a small injection to numb the tooth but if the break is very small this may not be necessary. The dentist will use a drill to clean out any decay and shape the broken tooth to receive a filling. Most commonly the hole in the tooth is then filled using a tooth coloured putty which is set hard by a light. Depending on the size and shape of the break different techniques and materials may be used but your dentist will advise you on which option is best for your specific case.
Porcelain veneers are bonded to front teeth when they are too badly broken to simply fill it. The dentist will first prepare your teeth for the veneers by gently removing some of the tooth structure. This will remove any weak parts of the tooth which may be decayed or damaged and also prevent the veneers from looking bulky. Moulds or a computer scan of your teeth are then taken and sent to a dental laboratory for the veneers to be manufactured. The dentist may apply temporary veneers in the meantime.
When a back tooth is too damaged for a filling but the damage is not severe enough for a dental crown, an option called a dental onlay is available, which falls somewhere in the middle. Onlays cover the biting surface of a tooth and onlays can be made from metal, composite resin or porcelain. Their manufacturing process is similar to veneers.
When the damage is too severe for a filing, veneer or onlay a crown may be required. A crown covers the tooth like a cap and protects it. Placing a crown usually requires numbing. The tooth is first prepared, after which moulds or a computer scan are taken and sent to the lab to create the crown. When the crown is ready, it will be cemented to the remaining tooth.
In cases of extensive damage where a crack extends below the gum line and your tooth is not repairable, the broken tooth will have to be extracted and replaced with a dental implant. Although there are other options available, dental implants are considered the best choice among dentists.
The procedure starts with the dentist drilling a hole into your jawline and surgically placing a titanium screw into it. The titanium screw is biocompatible and now, acts as a new root for your tooth. The dentist will then allow some time to pass for the bone to fuse with the screw, resulting in a secure and lasting foundation.
After a period of healing, the implant will be uncovered from under the gum and an impression will be taken to create the artificial tooth. At times, a special attachment called a healing cap may be placed on the tooth to help shape the gum around the implant for a tighter fit. Moulds of the top implant and the surrounding teeth are made to allow the new tooth to fit the implant. Once made, the new tooth is cemented or screwed into the implant.