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When Teeth Are Damaged

Pro-athletes are excellent examples of what not to do when you damage a tooth. The Brooklyn Nets power forward, Reggie Evans’ live TV demonstration last year showed the world (and our impressionable youths) the wrong way to deal with this issue.

Ripping out your own tooth may seem like a quick fix. That’s all the dentist will do anyway, right? Wrong! Most of the time there’s a lot that can be done to save the injured tooth.

Chipped Tooth

If your tooth absorbed most of the shock and was chipped, it’ll be pretty obvious that you’ll need some dental work. Just try to come in as soon as possible.

If the chip exposed the dentin or pulp underneath the enamel of your tooth, bacteria in your mouth will infect the pulp. If your tooth hurts, changes color or is sensitive to temperature, especially heat, the pulp could be damaged irreversibly and may be dying. You may require a root canal which removes the pulp and replaces it with gutta percha, a plastic filling. Knowing this sooner rather than later can save the tooth, which is always the main goal.

We may be hard-wired to think that a root canal is a horrible, painful procedure. It is certainly played up that way in the movies. Truth is, it is far less painful than we imagine. In fact, the procedure should be pain free. We now have far better anesthetics, instruments and high-tech imaging equipment that allow the dentist to see inside the tooth, making the root canal no more uncomfortable than having a filling placed.

Also, in the meantime, don’t forget you can patch the chipped tooth with a temporary crown. No need to walk around with a cracked smile.

Knocked Out of Position

This is a favorite for those who just want to rip the tooth out at the first sign of wiggling. Please, please reconsider. Seeing a dentist as soon as possible can help preserve the periodontal ligament tissue, the roots that hold your teeth in place.

If the tooth is not badly displaced, Dr. Hall will gently move it back into position. You may still require a root canal if the pulp inside is damaged, but at least you have greatly increased your odds of the tooth reattaching to the jaw bone.

The tooth may require a splint if it’s been badly knocked out of position. You’ll usually get what looks like a small set of braces. Wires attached to the injured tooth and the teeth on either side of it will hold it in place while it heals and reattaches to the jaw.

Knocked Out Completely

There is still hope! If you can find the tooth simply put it back in the socket as soon as possible. You should rinse it off with water or milk gently, without scraping or scrubbing it. Placing it back in the socket may allow the periodontal ligament tissue to reattach to the jaw.

Never force the tooth back in. If you can’t get it in the socket, put it in cold milk or a salt water solution. If none of these are available, saliva is preferable to plain water. And never place the tooth in a napkin as it will dry out and damage the periodontal ligament tissue.

Finally, as always but especially in this situation, see your dentist as soon as possible.

Dr. Hall’s main objective is always to save the existing tooth whenever possible. A dental implant is a good option for a lost tooth, but nothing beats the real thing. Try to do your part in saving your teeth by wearing protective equipment when playing sports and not doing anything rash when an injury occurs. Dr. Hall will help restore your smile no matter how bad the damage.