The surface of a tooth is harder than bone, which is one reason why teeth last so long. Unfortunately, if you hit a tooth hard enough, it will break. And because teeth are alive, if you break them, there is a risk that they could die. If a tooth dies, you could lose that tooth. Fortunately, if you seek dental treatment immediately, you might be able to save a severely broken tooth.
1. If you act quickly, you can often save a broken tooth
As mentioned earlier, teeth are actually alive. This means that they are connected to the rest of your body via blood vessels that nourish the root or pulp of the tooth. However, this pulp relies on the enamel and dentin layer to protect it from bacteria and the environment in your mouth. If you break a tooth in half, then the pulp no longer has any protection. This is why you need to get to your dentist quickly. Your dentist can then assess the damage, and seal the tooth with a crown before the pulp begins to suffer.
2. If the damage is too extensive, you will need to extract the tooth
Unfortunately, even if you get to the dentist quickly, you can't always save a badly broken tooth. Your dentist will need to perform an X-ray first to determine the extent of the damage. If the break is clean and above the area that houses the pulp, then a dental crown will be sufficient to save the tooth.
If the break has exposed the pulp or root of your tooth, then your dentist will perform root canal surgery, and then seal the tooth with a crown. However, if the damage extends below the gum line and into the root canal portion of the tooth, extraction may be the only solution. You can then explore tooth replacement options.
3. If infection sets in, your tooth will die and you could lose it
An important reason why you need to get to your dentist quickly is the possibility of infection. When a bad break exposes the pulp of a tooth, bacteria can then enter that tooth and infect the dental pulp, eventually killing it. Once that happens, you will experience a toothache, followed by a dental abscess. When an infection is serious, you may lose the tooth.
If you can't get to your dentist right away, be sure to rinse your mouth out with salt water regularly. This will help to keep infection at bay and reduce inflammation.