Have you ever experienced the terrible sense of panic that comes over you when one of your teeth falls out or breaks off? You sit there, tooth in hand, waiting for excruciating pain. But, after a few minutes with nary a twinge, your fear of pain is replaced with the embarrassment of walking around with a gap-toothed smile.
Your first impulse could be to try a little first-aid and fix the broken tooth yourself as a stopgap measure until you can get to the dentist. So you go to Google and type in “how to fix a broken tooth at home.” Your search returns dozens of suggestions – tips like using crazy glue. But, as a dentist who’s been in practice for over three decades, I’m here to tell you that the only safe and predictable way to fix a broken tooth is to make a beeline to the dentist. Failure to do so is frequently the cause of serious dental problems later on.
A Broken Tooth Is Scary
I get it. It’s natural to fear the worst while standing there with one of your precious pearly whites laying in your palm. That’s the exact position my patient, Hank, was in the other day when he called my office. Hank has been my patient for quite a long time but had first-hand experience with crowns, root canal, periodontal surgery, and implant dentistry long before I met him. Hank’s no stranger to advanced dental treatment, and as a result, he’s extremely diligent about taking care of his teeth. He brushes, flosses, and never misses his 3-times-a-year checkups.
Regardless of how diligent you are about your teeth, sometimes the unexpected just happens. While eating something soft, Hank suddenly noticed that one of his lower front teeth was loose. And the next think he knew, the tooth fell completely out – snapped off at the gum-line! What a shock.
(Note: it’s not unusual for people to break their teeth on foods that you wouldn’t expect to cause damage – soft things like grapes, salad, even bananas!
Thankfully, Hank called the office right away, and we said, “Hank, come right on in!” We told him to keep his tooth moist and bring it with him. (Note: If one of your teeth breaks off or falls out, immediately rinse it in cold water (close the drain in your sink first), then place it in a glass of milk. If you don’t have milk, water will do – just make sure nobody accidentally drinks it!
Fix A Broken Tooth In One Visit?
When Hank arrived at the office, it was obvious that he was filled with anxiety about what it was going to take to fix the broken tooth. He was convinced I was going to tell him that he needed an implant and a crown. But when I examined the tooth, I was elated: it was healthy and unblemished. Why had it snapped off? Excessive wear and the fact that the nerve had receded. This made Hank’s tooth more brittle than normal, and that’s why had broken off.
Listen, if one of your teeth breaks off, it’s only natural to expect the worst. You think, “Will I need an extraction? A bridge? Or (OMG!) – a root canal?” But the principle of Occam’s razor “the simplest solution is often the best” applies in dentistry the same way it does philosophy and science. To Hank’s surprise and delight, I was able to fix his broken tooth by bonding it into place and affixing it to healthy teeth on either side. In this way, I created a kind of natural bridge, which was a simple and elegant way to fix a broken tooth. The intraoral photographs of his teeth we had taken on previous visits enabled me to position the tooth in the precise spot where it previously sat, too.
No injections. No surgery, no implant, and no crown. The entire procedure took 30 minutes. Hank was so relieved, and my entire staff was thrilled for him!
That’s how your dentist can fix a broken tooth in one visit – how’s that for Wow! Dentistry?