Broken tooth and infection

If you have a chipped, cracked, or broken tooth and you’re thinking about leaving it untreated, please rethink this. Without prompt treatment, a fractured tooth can lead to irrecoverable damage over time. Broken or cracked teeth are more susceptible to infection, and untreated infection only worsens as it’s left to fester. When an infection that forms in the teeth spreads, it can circulate to the head and the neck and cause multiple health concerns, some of which could even be life-threatening. While this is rare, it’s not a risk worth taking, especially in light of the multiple effective treatments for broken teeth. Clearly, if your tooth is fractured and it’s causing discomfort or pain, your inclination is probably to treat it, but sometimes, dental fractures don’t have any symptoms, so make sure you see your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings, and certainly see your dentist right away if you know your tooth has fractured.

Unless the symptoms are obvious, the only way to determine whether the damage to a fractured tooth is significant is with a professional analysis by a qualified dentist. If the damage to the tooth is significant, you may be referred to an endodontist, a dental specialist who is well-equipped to diagnose and treat issues with the dental pulp and tooth roots that keep the teeth alive inside the mouth. If your fractured tooth hurts or is sensitive to extreme temperatures, or if the tooth changes color, there may be significant damage that has affected the root, or there may be an infection present. If the crack in a tooth is critical enough to expose the vital pulp inside the tooth, the pulp can become infected.

Dental pulp is the material that makes up the inside of a healthy tooth, containing nerves and blood vessels. In a healthy tooth, the dental pulp is protected inside the tooth by layers of hard tissue called cementum, dentin, and enamel. In a severe dental fracture, all of these calcified outer layers can be breached and the pulp can become unprotected and exposed to the elements in the oral cavity. Infection happens in the oral cavity when bacteria enter the tissues that surround and support the teeth, which occurs pretty regularly because humans eat and breathe and do other things with their mouths. When this bacteria enters a tooth through a fracture and infects the vulnerable dental pulp, it can kill the tooth, and it can become infected. The blood vessels in the pulp of the tooth can also spread infection into the bloodstream, and the scenario could get grim.

The tried-and-true treatment for a tooth that has damaged or weakened dental pulp is root canal therapy. In this treatment, a dental specialist will clean out the infected tissue, sterilize the area, and seal the crack to prevent further infection. When a tooth is broken only on the outer layers, or if there is a hairline crack that doesn’t jeopardize the pulp, your dentist may recommend dental bonding, fillings, or other cosmetic procedures. In some cases, when damage is significant and the bone has also been compromised, the tooth will need to be extracted. If you’re experiencing discomfort from a fractured tooth while you’re waiting to see your dentist, try an over-the-counter pain medication and rinse your mouth with warm salt water. If there is a sharp edge of broken tooth that is rubbing against your tongue or irritating you, buy some dental wax to cover the edge, or try using sugarless gum if that isn’t an option. Don’t bite down on the affected tooth, and limit your diet to soft foods, but most of all, be sure to see the dentist as soon as you can.

Is a broken tooth an emergency?