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Home > Dental Conditions > Teeth Problems > Tooth Repair 101 and How Dentists Fix Teeth Broken by Injury or Disease
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Tooth Repair 101: How Dentists Fix Teeth Broken by Injury or Disease


Broken teeth are a common dental emergency. That's why it's important to know something about broken tooth repair before your life is turned upside down by a fractured or cracked tooth. Being prepared is smart when you consider that, according to eMedicine, nearly half of all children injure a permanent tooth before age 18. Now, factor in the millions of unlucky adults who every year wind up with a broken tooth thanks to accidents, fights, falls, sports and biting hard foods. Odds are that sooner or later you or someone you care for will be facing tooth repair.

The Cardinal Rules of Tooth Repair

Tooth Repair – Learn what happens in broken tooth repair.

When it comes to tooth repair, there are two important rules to remember:

Broken teeth are dental emergencies. Only dentists can fix teeth broken by trauma or disease. Don't waste time with over-the-counter or home remedies. See a professional immediately for broken tooth repair.

The sooner you get to the dentist the more likely the tooth will be saved. This is especially important with teeth that have been completely knocked out of the mouth. In those instances, there is a 30-minute window in which tooth repair has the greatest likelihood of success.

Improving Your Chances for Successful Tooth Repair

Just because you can't fix teeth at home doesn't mean you can't take steps to improve the outcome. These first-aid tips can increase your chances for successful broken tooth repair.

Save the pieces. If you act quickly and your break was relatively clean, the dentist may be able to cement the tooth back together. This is a temporary tooth repair which will require additional treatment.

Try DIY tooth repair. A knocked-out tooth isn't necessarily a permanent loss. In some instances, the tooth can be successfully reimplanted in the mouth. Getting immediate emergency dental care is essential; however, you can help the process by reattaching the tooth prior to heading to your dentist's office for broken tooth repair. 

To start, hold the tooth by the crown (chewing edge), and gently rinse it in warm water. Do not scrub the roots. Next, place the tooth in the socket, to the level of adjacent teeth. Don't force it. Make sure the tooth is facing the right way. Biting down gently on gauze or a wet teabag is a good way to keep the tooth in place on the ride to the dentist. Be careful not to swallow the tooth.

If your tooth doesn't easily fit in its socket or you're just uncomfortable with the idea of replacing it on your own, just properly transport it as outlined below and go directly to visit the dentist.

Transport your tooth. Whether you're taking the dentist a whole tooth or a fragment, keeping it moist is essential. Place the broken tooth in a container with a small amount of saliva or milk. Using tap water should be a last resort because it contains chlorine which may damage the root. Another good transport option is to place the tooth back in the mouth between the lower lip and gum or under the tongue.

Rinse your mouth. Rinsing your mouth with warm, saltwater will help clean the wound.

Stop the bleeding. Persistent bleeding can be controlled by applying a piece of gauze to the area for 10 minutes or until the bleeding stops.

Apply a cold compress. Applying a cold compress to the cheeks or lips over a broken tooth will help reduce swelling.

Protect your mouth. Broken teeth can be razor sharp. If you're unable to see your dentist right away, protect your tongue and cheeks by covering the broken surface of the tooth with temporary dental cement from the pharmacy or chewing gum.

Avoid eating or drinking. If you must eat, choose soft foods and avoid biting down on the broken tooth. 

See your dentist: Stat! After stabilizing the situation, alert your dentist that you require emergency broken tooth repair. Remember, tooth repair is most likely to be successful when performed within 24 hours of the damage occurring. You have to move fast if you want to fix teeth right.

Diagnosis Is Key to Successful Broken Tooth Repair

Though every cracked tooth presents a unique dental health challenge, dentists have identified eight major categories of broken teeth.

Minor Cracks -- Also referred to as "craze lines," these superficial fractures only affect the tooth's enamel. Tooth repair may be optional. Minor cracks rarely need treatment other than a light polish to smooth out rough spots.

Chips -- If the chip is small, tooth repair may consist of a light dental sanding to remove any rough areas. Larger chips are often treated with dental filling material to prevent the condition from worsening and to improve the tooth's appearance.

Cusp Fractures -- This category of break affects the tooth's pointed chewing service (the cusps). Minor cusp fractures can be repaired by filling the surfaces of the tooth to restore its original shape. More serious cusp fractures require a dental crown.

Serious Fractures -- Fractures deep enough to expose nerve tissue are serious and should be immediately treated by a dentist. Often accompanied by bleeding, these fractures are usually quite painful. Broken tooth repair consists of a root canal to remove the exposed nerve and a crown to complete the dental restoration.

Cracked Tooth -- This category of fracture occurs when a tooth is cracked from top to bottom. Though the crack runs the length of the tooth from the chewing surface to the nerve, the two pieces do not come apart. It's critical to get a cracked tooth treated quickly as these fractures tend to spread further weakening the tooth. Cracks can be repaired with filling material. Crowns and root canals are often required to contain the damage of a cracked tooth.

Split Tooth -- This condition occurs when a tooth splits vertically into two separate parts. In a worse case scenario, a split tooth will require extraction. If the damaged tooth is one with multiple roots, it may be possible to save one of the "good" roots with a root canal procedure and a dental crown.

Vertical Tooth Fractures or Split Root -- Often very painful, these cracks start at the root of the tooth and extend upward toward the cusp. It's very difficult to fix teeth under these circumstances. Typically, tooth repair is not an option. Vertical tooth fractures require an extraction.

Decay-Induced Fractures -- Teeth sometimes fracture due to internal cavities. When this happens, your dentist will examine the cavity and determine the best way to approach tooth repair or restoration.

It Takes a Professional to Fix Teeth Broken by Injury or Disease

The sooner you see a dentist the more likely he or she will be able to successfully fix teeth broken by injury or disease.

For help finding emergency broken tooth repair, search now or call 1-866-970-0441.

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