Can a Broken Tooth Be Saved?

life raft on wall for dental emergency

I broke my bicuspid about a week ago. It was stupid, really. I was playing street outside with the kids and got bashed with a stick. Anyway, I tried to remember what I could about emergency dental treatment and popped the broken piece into milk, then got in touch with my dentist. He was able to get me in right away that day but told me there was nothing he could do about the tooth—that the only thing he could do was pull it and replace it with a bridge or dental implant. The thing was sharp and it was throbbing. I really couldn’t leave it. So, I went with his advice and I had it pulled that day. I haven’t really thought about how to replace it yet—dental implants may be too expensive for me but that would be my preferred choice. Anyway, the real reason I’m writing is because the whole thing seems sketchy to me now. Everything I’m reading says that he should have been able to save my tooth. Is that accurate?



Dear Raj,

It’s a little more complex than that. Let’s take a look.

Use Milk if a Tooth is Knocked Out

Milk comes into play when a tooth is knocked out (root and all) rather than broken. This has more to do with preserving the surface of the tooth’s root, so that the microscopic attachments on it don’t dry out or get rubbed off. Ideally, you’ll want to place the tooth back in its socket but milk can serve as a rinse aid or be used in transport if you can’t put the tooth back in its socket.

If a tooth is broken rather than knocked out, there’s no need for any additional TLC. You can take the fragment with you to the dentist but he or she probably won’t be able to reattach the tooth.

A Broken Tooth Can Usually (But Not Always) Be Saved

Broken teeth can usually be saved but it depends on how much of the tooth broke off and how it broke off. For example, if you chip off a corner, your dentist is probably going to be able to fix the tooth with a filling. If you break a large portion of the tooth off or the fracture is at or near the pulp of the tooth, then you’ll probably need a crown and possibly a root canal. However, if a significant portion of the tooth is lost, say it breaks off at the gumline, there’s nothing for the dentist to build back up. All he or she can really do is remove the root and give you some type of replacement.

Obviously, it’s more involved than this. Your dentist will probably be taking x-rays and will do a thorough exam before deciding what the tooth’s prognosis is.

Don’t Rule Out Dental Implants

There are three main missing tooth replacements—bridges, dentures, and dental implants, with the latter generally thought of as the best solution. Contrary to popular belief, however, dental implants are affordable. If you’re struggling to work it into your budget, look for payment plans and similar that will ensure you get quality care and a good deal.

This blog is sponsored by Elgin emergency dental treatment provider Dr. Steve Sirin.

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