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Signs Your Broken Tooth May Need To Be Extracted

Learn the key signs indicating your broken tooth may need extraction. Understand the process, risks, and benefits to ensure optimal dental health.

Last updated on

December 13, 2023

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Signs Your Broken Tooth May Need To Be Extracted

Everyone's had that sudden sharp pain in their mouth, usually in the middle of a juicy steak or that delectable candy bar. And no, we're not talking about biting your tongue. 

You clench your jaws together, eyes watering, and a sigh escapes your lips. It's that dreaded toothache again. But what if it's not just a toothache? What if your tooth is broken? 

Sounds scary, doesn't it? But don't fret. This guide, provided by the experts here at Flossy, can help you navigate the signs your broken tooth may need to be extracted. Let’s get started!

What Causes a Tooth To Break?

It’s not just those marathon sessions of popcorn-munching that can cause your tooth to break. There are a handful of common culprits behind that cracked molar, and they include decay, trauma, and grinding.

Decay

Dental decay is like that uninvited guest at your party, ruining everything. 

It's caused by those tiny little bacteria partying it up in your mouth, consuming the food particles left behind, especially sugars. When these bacteria produce acid, it gradually wears down your tooth's enamel, making it susceptible to breaking. So, remember to brush, floss, and attend your regular dental check-ups.

Trauma

Then there’s trauma, the silent destroyer. 

An accidental blow to the face, an unexpected fall, or a quick and hard bite into a cherry pit or popcorn kernel can result in a chipped or broken tooth

And yes, even playing that intense backyard football game without a mouthguard can cost you a tooth. Let's just say protective gear is a must, and that goes for your teeth too.

Grinding

Lastly, grinding is a stealthy foe. 

Often an unconscious habit, particularly during sleep, grinding wears down and weakens your teeth over time. This bruxism can make your teeth more likely to break, particularly when chowing down on something hard. If you wake up with a sore jaw or headache, you might be a tooth grinder.

How Do You Know If Your Tooth Is Broken?

Here comes the tricky part. How can you tell if your tooth is broken? The signs are often subtle and can be both visible and felt.

Visible Signs

Sometimes, a broken tooth can be as clear as day. You might notice a piece of your tooth missing or a visible crack. 

A change in color is another giveaway, with the affected tooth turning gray or dark. In certain cases, you might see a hole or opening in your tooth where a cavity has formed due to decay.

Felt Symptoms

While visible signs are easier to spot, it’s the felt symptoms that often make us wince. These can range from mild to severe. You might feel a sharp pain when biting down or lingering pain after eating hot, cold, or sweet foods. 

There can also be a dull ache or discomfort that doesn’t seem to go away. The tooth might suddenly start to feel rough to your tongue or sensitive to touch.

Can a Broken Tooth Heal on Its Own?

Dentistry, just like life, isn’t always as simple as we’d like. Unlike a scraped knee or a common cold, a broken tooth won't heal on its own, even if the pain subsides. Sure, you may find ways to ease the discomfort temporarily, but a band-aid solution won't fix the real issue.

Temporary Relief

The application of an over-the-counter topical gel, a cold compress to the face, or even rinsing your mouth with a warm salt-water solution may grant temporary relief.

But the emphasis here is on “temporary.” These methods don't treat the underlying issue; they only provide short-term comfort.

Lingering Damage

The danger of a broken tooth is the lingering damage it can cause. Just because you can't see it or feel it doesn't mean the tooth is healing or healthy. The crack or break allows bacteria to penetrate deeper into the tooth, which could lead to more severe problems down the line.

When Should You See a Dentist About a Broken Tooth?

The severity of the break or crack often dictates how soon you should see a dentist. However, any discomfort, pain, or visible damage to your tooth should prompt a dental visit.

Emergency Situations

Sharp, intense pain, a severely cracked or broken tooth, or one that's been knocked out completely indicates a dental emergency.

In these instances, immediate medical attention is required. Waiting or ignoring the issue can potentially make the situation worse and limit the dental treatment options available to you.

Non-Emergency Situations

In less severe cases, such as a minor chip or crack, where there's no immediate discomfort, it might be okay to wait for a few days before seeing a dentist. 

However, even then, a dental visit is still necessary. You might not feel the damage now, but there could be hidden issues developing that only a dentist can identify.

What Happens If a Broken Tooth Is Left Untreated?

The old adage "out of sight, out of mind" doesn't apply to oral health. A broken tooth left untreated can result in several complications. These aren't just potential problems — they're practically inevitable.

Infection

First and foremost, the risk of infection increases significantly with an untreated broken tooth. The opening in the tooth provides an entry point for bacteria, which can lead to an abscess (a painful, pus-filled infection). 

In severe cases, the infection can spread to other areas of the body, leading to serious health issues.

Further Damage

Leaving a broken tooth untreated can also lead to further damage. The tooth can continue to crack or chip, potentially causing more severe pain and complicating treatment. Also, a broken tooth can cause harm to the surrounding teeth and even lead to loss of bone in the jaw.

Cosmetic Concerns

Let's not forget about the aesthetic implications. 

A visible crack, chip, or missing tooth can impact your smile and overall appearance. This can, in turn, affect your self-confidence and quality of life.

How Is a Broken Tooth Treated?

When it comes to broken teeth, dentistry offers a whole spectrum of options. Treatments can range from simple fillings to more complex procedures. Here's a brief rundown of some common treatments you might encounter.

Fillings or Bonding

If the break in your tooth is small, a filling could be the answer. For visible teeth, bonding, which involves a tooth-colored composite resin, can be a useful aesthetic solution. 

These options are often quick and relatively painless, restoring your tooth to its former glory.

Root Canal

Sometimes, a break or crack exposes the tooth's pulp, where the nerves and blood vessels live. In this situation, a root canal is often necessary to remove the infected pulp and prevent further complications. 

While this procedure has a persistent scary reputation, rest assured that modern dentistry techniques have made root canals more comfortable than ever.

Dental Cap or Crown

For a larger break, a dental cap or crown might be necessary. This involves shaping the remaining tooth and fitting a cap over it. The cap strengthens the tooth and prevents further damage. 

Crowns can be made of metal, porcelain, resin, or ceramic, offering durability and a natural look.

When Does a Broken Tooth Need To Be Extracted?

There are certain situations where extraction is the best or only option. The idea of tooth extraction may sound daunting, but it's sometimes the necessary path toward restoring your oral health.

Extensive Decay or Damage

If the tooth has extensive decay or the break is too large for a crown or cap to effectively protect it, extraction might be the best option. 

Likewise, if the break extends into the tooth's pulp and a root canal can't save it, your dentist will likely recommend extraction.

Gum Disease

If gum disease has led to the loosening of a tooth, it may need to be extracted. This can also apply to a broken tooth if it exacerbates existing gum disease symptoms.

Impacted Tooth

If a tooth is impacted — meaning it can't break through the gum line, perhaps due to being blocked by other teeth — it may need to be extracted. This issue is especially common with wisdom teeth.

What Should You Expect From a Tooth Extraction?

The extraction process involves numbing the area, loosening the tooth, and then gently removing it. Sounds simple enough, right? 

After the extraction, it's essential to keep the area clean to prevent infection. Pain is usually manageable with over-the-counter pain relief and should subside within a few days. 

Also, your dentist may recommend a dental implant or bridge to replace the missing tooth.

What Can Flossy Do for Your Dental Needs? 

Navigating the world of oral health can be confusing, but that's where Flossy comes in. Our app offers a user-friendly interface that helps you take control of your dental health. You can schedule appointments, view your treatment history, and access helpful oral hygiene tips.

What sets Flossy apart is its pay-as-you-go model. It offers an affordable way to access dental services without the need for insurance. Whether you need a regular check-up, a filling, or even a tooth extraction, Flossy allows you to handle each service individually, making dental care more accessible and manageable.

A broken tooth can feel like a crisis, but with Flossy, it doesn't have to be a disaster. Let us guide you through your dental journey and help you achieve and maintain that perfect smile. Your oral health is our priority

Don't delay — download Flossy on your phone today, and let's get that smile back on track!

Sources:

Fractured Tooth (Cracked Tooth): What It Is, Symptoms & Repair | Cleveland Clinic

Dental Trauma: What Is it and How Is it Treated? | Top Doctors

Bruxism (Teeth Grinding) - Symptoms and Causes | Mayo Clinic

Toothache: Symptoms, Causes & Remedies | Cleveland Clinic

Impact of Dental Disorders and its Influence on Self-Esteem Levels among Adolescents | PMC

Periodontal (Gum) Disease | National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

What is an Impacted Tooth? | American Association of Orthodontists

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