A broken tooth becomes a dental emergency when it threatens the tooth's survival. It is not always easy to tell whether a broken tooth is a dental emergency. Any time a tooth becomes chipped or broken, you should call your dentist as soon as possible. If it is an emergency, you need treatment immediately, and even if it is not, you probably need treatment in a timely manner, on the same day if possible. Your dentist's office can assess the situation, determine whether it qualifies as an emergency, and advise you accordingly on whether you need to come in right away or make an appointment for later.
Teeth usually become broken because of trauma to the mouth. For example, you could break a tooth when you trip and fall or when someone or something hits you hard in the mouth. Another way that people break teeth is by biting down on something that exerts too much pressure on the tooth. Often, this is something hard, such as candy or ice. It may be a non-food object that you are not meant to chew on, such as your fingernails or a pencil or pen. However, teeth can also become broken by chewing on something that is chewy or sticky. If teeth are already damaged by extensive decay, it increases the possibility that they may become broken, probably with less force than it would require otherwise.
Breaking a tooth can be a frightening situation, but how do you know whether it is an emergency? Your dentist can let you know for sure, but here are some indications of whether it is an emergency or not.
If just a small portion of the tooth has broken off, it usually is not a dental emergency. A small chip should remain stable until you can come to the dentist to have it fixed. However, if a large portion of the tooth is broken and the break or crack extends below the gum line, it is probably a dental emergency.
Pain in your broken tooth indicates that the nerve is involved. The nerves of the teeth can be very sensitive, so a fracture can cause extreme pain. You probably do not need your dentist to tell you that your broken tooth is a dental emergency in this situation.
If your broken tooth is bleeding excessively and will not stop, this is also a sign of a dental emergency. Excessive bleeding from your broken tooth is likely to be accompanied by extreme pain, either of which alone strongly suggests a dental emergency. The presence of both together confirms it.
A broken tooth is not always a dental emergency. Nevertheless, it is a reason to contact your dentist as soon as possible to assess the situation and arrange treatment.
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