Should You Go to an Emergency Dentist for a Chipped, Broken or Shattered Tooth?

An emergency dentist is someone who takes care of emergencies that involve the mouth, teeth or gums. Typically a dental emergency is something that causes you extreme pain or you have suffered an injury to a tooth. For example, if you have lost a crown or have been in an accident and one or more teeth have been chipped, shattered or broken. In most situations a dental emergency is classified by the particular area of the tooth that has been injured.

Identifying the Injured Area


When you first arrive at the office of an emergency dentist, the first thing he will do is identify which part of the tooth has been injured. Each tooth is made up of three individual parts:

The enamel, which is the outer section
The dentin, which is the middle section
The pulp, which is the area containing the nerves
Typically if you chip a tooth, only the enamel is injured and you will not feel any pain. The dentist will take an x-ray and either smooth the tooth out or fill the injured area with a composite material.

Dentin Injury


If the tooth has been damaged in the dentin area, an emergency dentist may need to do an emergency root canal to prevent further damage. If you have lost a crown, this is typically considered damage to the dentin area, because the crown is covering the middle layer of your tooth. If you are experiencing pain after loosing a crown, it is important to go to a dentist as soon as possible to prevent infection or further damage. The dentist can often replace the crown with a temporary one until you can get an appointment for a permanent replacement.

Pulp Injury


If the tooth has been cracked or broken in the pulp area, it will be painful, because the nerves will be exposed. This type of injury typically occurs from a sudden and violent jolt to the tooth, such as in an automobile or sporting accident. If there is injury to the pulp area, you will most likely experience bleeding, so if you have access to water and salt, it is important to rinse your mouth with warm salt water to stop the bleeding. If the entire tooth has came out, when possible preserve the tooth to take to the emergency dentist with you. Do not touch the injured area with your hands, as it may cause more damage as well as infection. The dentist can typically replace the tooth with a dental bridge or an implant.

If you break or chip a tooth, it is best to go to an emergency dentist as soon as the injury occurs, regardless of how mild the injury may seem. Infection is a serious problem that often occurs with an injured tooth.  Seeking emergency dental care may give you an opportunity to save a permanent tooth, so it is better to seek dental care as soon as possible, rather than risk more serious damage to your teeth, gums or mouth.