Adults typically have a total of 32 permanent teeth, including four wisdom teeth. With good care, these teeth should last a lifetime. However, if a tooth is damaged, from an accident or as a result of bad habits such as chewing ice, it’s important to get appropriate care as soon as possible.
Broken tooth – The most common cause of a broken tooth is a blow to the face or biting down on something hard. Children may break a tooth falling off a bicycle or during other active play. If you have a broken tooth, you will need to see the dentist as soon as possible. Rinse your mouth with warm water. If your gum is bleeding, press a piece of gauze on the area until the bleeding stops. If you are able to save the pieces of the tooth, rinse them under warm water and take them to the dentist. Depending on how the tooth was broken, it may be possible for the dentist to glue the tooth back together as a temporary fix. If the root of the tooth is exposed, you can cover the broken area with dental cement available in pharmacies. Place a cold compress over the cheek or lips to control swelling and take an over-the-counter pain reliever if needed. Your dentist will determine whether or not you need a root canal as well as the best method to repair the tooth.
Split tooth – The molars are the larger, flat-topped teeth at the back of the mouth. These teeth can crack into two pieces from top to bottom. Because molars have two roots, it may be possible to have a root canal but preserve one of the roots which can then be topped with a crown. In many cases, however, the tooth will need to be removed.
Minor cracks – The outer, white part of the tooth is known as the enamel. Fine cracks in the enamel are typically cosmetic and rarely need to be treated, although your dentist may polish the area to smooth out the cracks.
Serious cracks – If a crack or fracture is deep enough to expose the nerve, the tooth will often bleed and be painful. Serious fractures usually require a root canal and a crown to repair the tooth.
Knocked out tooth – If a tooth is completely knocked out of your mouth, carefully rinse the tooth in warm water if it is dirty. Be careful not to scrub the tooth or remove any tissue that is still attached to the tooth. If possible, gently replace the tooth in its socket in your gum and hold it there. If this isn’t possible, place the tooth in a cup of milk. Get to the dentist as quickly as possible and make sure to take the tooth with you. It may be possible for the dentist to restore the tooth in your gum if the root is intact.
Teeth can be damaged in a variety of ways, and you may not immediately know how bad the damage is. The important thing to remember is that if something happens to damage or break a tooth, get it checked by your dentist as soon as possible.