Is a broken tooth an emergency?
If you have a broken tooth that is minimally damaged and causing slight sensitivity or a mild toothache, you can wait until a scheduled appointment for treatment, but if you have a significantly damaged tooth, you’ll need to see an emergency dentist. Sometimes, this damage is evident, like when a tooth is severely damaged in an accident or fall, but other times, it can be difficult to determine what would qualify for an emergency dental visit. There are some good ways to gauge whether emergency attention is necessary, so make sure to assess your situation carefully and proceed accordingly.
If you do require immediate attention for a dental emergency, you may be able to call a dentist to schedule an appointment on the same day, though sometimes people need to go to an urgent care provider or an emergency room at a hospital to get interim medical treatment while waiting to see a dentist. Broken teeth are among the more common dental emergencies, with many people sustaining damage to the teeth while engaging in impact sports, eating very hard foods, or in an accident or fall. In some cases, a broken tooth isn’t an emergency. Minor tooth fractures and chipped teeth that pose no immediate threat to the overall health or oral health are not considered dental emergencies, though they should be addressed at a scheduled dental checkup.
Significant tooth fractures, on the other hand, should be addressed immediately. These fractures are those in which a large, noticeable chunk of tooth is missing. In most cases, these fractures are extremely painful, as the sensitive dental pulp inside the tooth contains multiple nerve endings and blood vessels that aren’t accustomed to being so exposed. If you’re fortunate enough to have a dental emergency during regular business hours, it’s absolutely worth it to call your dentist as well as other dentists in your area, as many local practices can accommodate dental emergencies during their regular work day. If your broken tooth happens when a regular dentist’s office won’t be open, it’s still a good idea to call your dentist, which will provide an emergency phone number for patients to call when in crisis.
If you’re in a serious amount of pain, remember that the nearest hospital emergency room is also an option. In the meantime, over-the-counter pain medication can help with discomfort, and warm saline rinses can keep the area clean and soothe irritation. If the pain radiates to the jaw, ice packs applied to the area on the outside of the face can relieve pain, but be sure to wrap the ice pack in a soft cloth and only apply it in brief increments so you don’t damage your face. Ideally, you won’t need to deal with this long, as you’ll be on your way to the emergency dentist for a better, more permanent solution. If the pulp inside the tooth is significantly damaged, you may be referred to an endodontist for comprehensive treatment, but seeing an emergency dentist or other emergency medical professional as soon as you can is the best way to resolve the issue as quickly and painlessly as possible.