If you’re an older adult, an athlete or you grind your teeth in your sleep, you could be more at risk for a chipped or lost tooth. Dr. Saba Sheikh explains precisely what you should do if you are in one of these situations.
What to Do If You Chipped a Tooth
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.
Chipping a tooth is not just a cosmetic concern.
“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.”
It’s important to get to the dentist quickly, even on weekends, she added. So call your dentist no matter what time of day it is. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as Ibuprofen, Motrin or Tylenol can help with pain, Dr. Sheikh said.
Eating is still possible, but avoid chewing near the chipped tooth. 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 said. “The child can take over-the-counter children’s pain reliever as needed.”
You Suddenly Lost a Tooth
If you lose a tooth, the first step is to take immediate action.
“Recover your tooth by holding it by the crown if your tooth falls out,” 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.”
If you’re concerned about the possibility of a tooth suddenly falling out without warning, it’s highly unlikely if it wasn’t already loose, according to Dr. Sheikh.
However, facial damage caused by a strike, fall or sports injury would be a different story.
“One should always wear a mouthguard while playing contact sports and at night if they grind their teeth,” she said. “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 a tooth that has fallen out.
“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, replacement options include an implant, bridge or removable partial denture.
Now, 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 it happens to your child’s chipped or lost tooth, but not if it’s a baby tooth, Dr. Sheikh said.
“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,” she said. “Only permanent adult teeth can be reinserted.”
How Your Dentist Can Help if You’re Prone to These Situations
Talk to your dentist if you think a chipped or lost tooth has become a common occurrence. If you have concerns about grinding your teeth while sleeping or protecting them while playing sports, your dentist may have recommendations.
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.