A: It really depends. Any broken tooth in the front of the mouth is deemed an emergency. Most people don’t want to walk around with a tooth broken in the front of their mouth— whether it’s painful or not.
A broken tooth in the back of the mouth? I would say it’s an emergency because it’s not going to get any better and it’s not going to fix itself. Generally, those occur with pain and often times with swelling, which indicates infection. So, for those reasons, it is an emergency.
If you’ve ever experienced a broken tooth, then you know the whole ordeal can be a traumatic and distressing experience. The term “broken tooth is often used interchangeably with fractured tooth, even though they’re similar—they are different. However, as a precaution, regardless of being broken or fractured, it’s a safe bet to consult your dentist before taking action.
A fractured or broken tooth can quickly escalate to something far more serious if it’s not addressed ASAP. First—you need to know what each is and what is the main difference between a fractured or broken tooth.
What Is A Fractured Tooth?
Teeth are one of the toughest parts of your body, but that doesn’t mean they’re invincible. Teeth can be damaged by injury, trauma, or poor dental hygiene. Treatment for a fractured tooth is dependent on the type and severity of the fracture.
Teeth don’t all fracture in the same way. Some are serious enough to be deemed a dental emergency, while others may be minor and need no solution at all. It depends on the type of tooth fracture you’ve suffered. There’s a handful of fracture types but these are the five most common.
This is when you crack the tooth vertically from the chewing surface downward towards the root. If it’s minor, it’s often called a hairline tooth fracture. However, sometimes the crack spreads beneath the gumline down into the root. Cracked doesn’t mean the tooth is split in two and if the crack is minor and not too deep, it’s very treatable in most cases.
Craze lines are very small cracks that don’t go deeper than the outer layer of the tooth and aren’t an emergency. You can wait to see your regular dentist during business hours.
The cusp is the chewing surface of the tooth and it can become fractured, often around a tooth filling. You may experience sharp pain when biting down.
Vertical Root Fracture
Vertical root fractures are similar to a cracked tooth but begin at the root and extend upward. They often show no symptoms so they can be tricky to diagnose as such.
Symptoms of A Fractured Tooth
Fractured tooth symptoms can be as obvious as a visible chip, crack, or fracture line. However, some more subtle fractures such as craze lines are harder to spot. There are also some symptoms you may experience that indicate a fractured tooth.
- Sudden, sharp pain while chewing or biting down on food
- Unusual sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages
- Intermittent tooth pain
- Swollen gums around a tooth
Now that you’ve been given the rundown on what a fractured tooth is, you might be asking yourself “Well then, what’s a broken tooth”? Well, we’ll tell you, you’re not the first to question the difference. To be quite honest it does come down to some semantics and a technicality—let us explain.
What Is A Broken Tooth?
We understand, it sounds like a “broken” tooth is just another way to say fractured. Living in Texas, we have the best comparison to explain it.
When dining at a restaurant in Texas, you order a coke, the waitress asks you which kind. Why? Because only in Texas does the word coke act as a synonym for a soda (or pop, for you Midwesterners). Well, in that same fashion people often equate a fractured tooth with a broken tooth.
However, it’s not quite the same— a broken tooth is always a fractured tooth, but not all fractured teeth are broken teeth.
Confused yet? Ok—it’s simple, a fractured tooth is one that is not completely broken into two or more pieces. Like the bones of the body can get a fracture but not be completely broken in two, the same goes for teeth. A broken tooth is the next progression of a fractured tooth if it’s not treated so you could see why they’re related.
When Is A Broken Tooth An Emergency?
While a fractured tooth is only an emergency based on the severity a broken tooth is different. We like to err on the side of caution, so we say always treat a broken tooth as an emergency. This is because a broken tooth is far more compromised than a simple fracture.
Its structural integrity has been severely weakened and normal activities such as eating could make it worse. That can lead to bigger problems such as infection.
Which Is More Severe—Fractured Or Broken?
This is another question that comes up a lot and it’s a naturally ambiguous answer because every situation is different.
Typically though, a broken tooth will be more severe than a simple fracture—even though it may not feel like it. You see, if for example, you break the cusp, which usually happens around a filling—it’s unlikely to cause pain. However, sometimes a fracture that extends into the soft pulp can be more painful than a cusp break. That’s because it’s not completely broken but the tissue is exposed and sensitive to the friction that occurs with normal speaking and eating.
Additionally, if you break a tooth down to the root, that can be extremely painful and a far bigger emergency than a fracture.
So, what’s the right answer? There really isn’t one—both situations should be addressed by a dentist ASAP and should be considered an emergency. This is a healthy approach both for being proactive about dental care and preventing further damage.
If You Have A Broken or Fractured Tooth— DO THIS
Whether it’s broken or fractured there are certain things you can do that will serve you better than panicking:
- Immediately rinse your mouth out with warm water to keep the area clean.
- Call your dentist or a San Antonio emergency dentist ASAP.
- Alternatively, just walk into an emergency dental clinic near you.
- Place a cold compress on your face to mitigate swelling.
- Avoid any activity with the tooth such as eating, biting, etc.
- If pain is severe, take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Do NOT take aspirin. If your tooth is bleeding, aspirin will not allow the blood to clot.
Neither a broken tooth nor a fractured tooth will fix itself so you must see a dentist ASAP to have the best possible outcome.
JH Emergency Dental In San Antonio Is Here For You
You don’t have to wait for your dentist to open or have an opening that’s convenient for you to treat your fractured or broken tooth. We are here outside of normal dental clinic hours and ready to assist you in treating all dental issues.
Call us right now at (210) 940-3385 or book online to treat any dental issue you may have.