Is A Non-Painful Broken Tooth In Children An Emergency?

If an adult breaks a tooth, that tooth clearly needs urgent repair. Obviously, secondary (adult) teeth can't regenerate themselves, and a replacement tooth isn't waiting to erupt from the gums in the future. But since a replacement tooth is an inevitability with a primary (baby) tooth, is having your child's tooth repaired an urgent matter?

A Lack of Pain

It's relatively easy to dismiss a child's broken tooth as a non-urgent issue when the breakage doesn't cause pain. Although tooth pain can be an accurate indication of when a dentist's attention is needed, a lack of pain isn't conclusive. But this lack of pain can suggest that the tooth's pulp (the nerve) is unaffected, which is certainly preferable. 

Earliest Possible Opportunity

Even in the absence of immediate pain, the tooth will need to be assessed as soon as possible. Contact your preferred pediatric dental office for an urgent appointment—although the issue will only be an emergency if there's bleeding and your child is in pain. The broken tooth will need to be checked at the earliest possible opportunity—ideally on the same day.

Tooth Restoration

If a large fragment of the tooth detached and was spat out, it's desirable to retain it. However, if it was swallowed or otherwise lost in the confusion, don't be concerned. Comparable to reassembling a broken plate, a dentist can often bond a piece of the broken tooth back onto the remaining tooth. Otherwise, the tooth's missing fragment can be recreated using tooth-colored composite resin, which is what a dentist ordinarily uses to fill cavities. The goal is to restore your child's tooth to its pre-breakage shape and strength.

Continued Deterioration

Restoration of strength is essential. A broken tooth is a weakened tooth, and further deterioration is possible, and in some cases, probable. Just because the breakage is seemingly minor and isn't causing pain, it doesn't mean that this will continue. Even though the tooth in question will, before long, be replaced with a secondary adult tooth, the current primary tooth must be kept functional for as long as it's required. 

Possible Infection

There's also the fact that the vulnerable tooth may be more susceptible to infection, as the tooth's protective enamel has been compromised. If the tooth's nerve were to become infected, this would be extremely painful for your child. An infection that begins to affect the gums (which can be the case if the broken tooth was to become abscessed), could conceivably affect and disrupt the eventual eruption of your child's permanent tooth.

Clearly, a broken child's tooth that is bleeding and inflicting pain should be treated as an emergency, but all other breakages must also be assessed without much delay. For more information, contact a pediatric dental office near you.