Some people have a recurring dream about how they chip or lose a tooth. Well, what if it actually happened to you? Dr. Saba Sheikh explains precisely what you should do if you are in one of these situations.
Uh oh! You Chipped Your Tooth. Now What?
It’s important to know that some people are more prone to chipping their teeth than others. This includes older adults, athletes who play contact sports, people who grind their teeth and those with poor oral health.
A chipped tooth can also become infected.
“If the chip is due to a large cavity in the tooth, then the damage can affect the pulpal tissue and cause an infection,” Dr. Sheikh said. “If the chip is due to trauma, then the tissues around the tooth can become infected.”
She also added that it’s important to get to the dentist quickly, even on weekends. So call your dentist no matter what time of day it is.
And if it’s hurting?
“You can take a pain reliever such as Ibuprofen, Motrin or Tylenol,” Dr. Sheikh said.
You can still eat but avoid chewing with the chipped tooth, she said. And if you’re wondering, there’s no need to save the tooth fragment.
“A minor chip may need to be smoothed with a drill; a larger chip may be repaired with a filling; an even larger chip may require a crown and possibly even a root canal,” Dr. Sheikh said.
If one of your kids chips their tooth, the same rules apply.
“Call your dentist immediately,” Dr. Sheikh. “The child can take over-the-counter children’s pain reliever as needed.”
What to Do If You Lose a Tooth
If your tooth falls out, the first step is to “recover your tooth by holding it by the crown,” Dr. Sheikh said. “Do not touch the roots of the tooth. Rinse it with water, milk or a saline solution. If you can, reinsert the tooth into the socket and get to the dentist asap. If you cannot reinsert it, put the tooth in a glass of milk, saline solution or saliva if the other options are unavailable. Gently bite on gauze until you are seen by the dentist.”
Now, to put to rest some of those nightmares of teeth randomly falling out, Dr. Sheikh said it’s highly unlikely that your tooth would fall out if it wasn’t already loose.
“However, it can fall out from a blow to the face, a fall or a sports injury,” she said. “One should always wear a mouthguard while playing contact sports and at night if they grind their teeth. A tooth compromised by severe gum disease may not seem loose but will lack the bone support needed to keep it secure if damaged by trauma.”
Following Dr. Sheikh’s directions may save your tooth.
“If the tooth was kept moist, a dentist will splint the tooth in place with a wire and filling material to the adjacent teeth,” Dr. Sheikh said. “It will take several weeks for the implanted tooth to stabilize. Once stable, a root canal will likely be needed, and then the tooth will be watched closely for long-term success.”
Otherwise, there are replacement options.
“We can place an implant, make a bridge or make a removable partial denture,” Dr. Sheikh said. “The dentist will help you determine which option is best for you.”
Just like if you chipped your tooth, you should go to the dentist immediately. However, if it’s a weekend and you can’t get to the dentist’s office, you should go to the emergency room and take your tooth with you, Dr. Sheikh said.
The same rules apply if your child’s tooth accidentally falls out, except when it’s a baby tooth.
“Do not attempt to reinsert a baby tooth once it has fallen out as you may damage the adult tooth that will erupt in its place,” Dr. Sheikh said. “Only permanent adult teeth can be reinserted.”
What to Do If You’re Prone to Chip or Lose a Tooth
If you think you could be prone to chipping or losing a tooth, talk to your dentist about it. For instance, if you grind your teeth while you sleep, your dentist may recommend wearing a night guard to protect them. Or, if you play contact sports, your dentist may have other recommendations for you.
It’s also another good reason to take care of your oral health. The healthier your teeth are, the more likely they are to survive any trauma that comes their way.
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