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What an awful feeling – biting down on something hard, knocking your mouth against a surface, or being hit in the face or the mouth – and hearing that crunch or click. The crunch or click means that your tooth is now in pieces, and smiling will reveal that terrifying gap. What do you do? It’s a panic moment that you need to use wisely.
Identify the Chip or Crack
It may not hurt, if it’s just the tip or edge of your tooth. But if your tongue is noticing a sudden sharp edge or uncomfortable surface on one of your teeth it may be a chip or crack. Other times the pain will be extreme. This can happen if the tooth has cavity damage, or the break has exposed the root and nerve. Use a mirror if you can to identify where the chip or crack may be.
Ice
If you sustained the chip or crack as part of an impact injury, applying an ice pack to the cheek or lips outside the tooth can minimize pain and swelling in the tissue. If it’s a crack or chip that isn’t due to injury, the cold may irritate the site so use sparingly.
Rinse & Treat
Rinsing the area with lukewarm water can remove any pieces of food that broke your tooth, as well as cleaning off the area. You can use gauze to stem any bleeding. Try to keep your mouth as clean as possible to avoid infection.
Pain
Using an over-the-counter painkiller can ease the pain of a cracked or chipped tooth. If the pain is more severe call your dentist or medical professional quickly for relief.
Emergency Appointment
Most dental offices retain emergency appointment openings for people with cracked or split teeth. Call your dental office immediately to explain the situation, and they can give you further direction about caring for the cracked tooth. They may refer you to a drugstore for a temporary dental cement covering in the time between now and when they can get you in for an appointment.
Dental Work
The dental work to fix a crack, chip, or break will vary depending on your situation. Minor cracks or chips can be filled to smooth rough areas and prevent future damage. More serious chips, cracks, and breaks may require crowns, root canals, and even tooth replacement. When the root is affected or the tooth cannot be salvaged the repair work will need to be more strenuous.
Be sure to heed these steps and remember them the next time you feel that little crack or crunch in your mouth, or encounter a family member or coworker with a chipped or cracked tooth. It’s inconvenient and maybe painful, but you can get on the road to perfect dental hygiene quickly with these steps.