Is this a dental emergency?
August 6, 2013 11:50 AM   Subscribe

Does my broken molar need immediate attention?

So one of my molars that had a pretty big filling gave away and 1/4 of it broke off yesterday. No trauma, no impact, the part of the tooth just sort of fell off. Today, a part of the filling also fell off. I don't feel any pain, just a little sensitivity to heat and cold. I called my dentist, who's on vacation and will be back on Monday.

Should I go to another dentist sooner?

posted by TheGoodBlood to Health & Fitness (17 answers total)
I would try and get to another dentist sooner, because right now you might not be feeling any pain, but later on you very well might, and if that pain kicks in at midnight on Friday, you're going to spend the rest of the weekend wishing you'd gotten in to see another dentist.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:54 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For what it's worth, I had very much the same thing happen to me a while back and ended up going a few weeks before I could get it addressed. There was no pain, and I spent a lot of time flossing/cleaning the hole (okay, that part was a bit of a pain in the butt); when I did finally get in to see the dentist they didn't act like it was a big deal - they just stuck in a new filling and it's fine now.

That's not to say I'd recommend waiting if you have the option of getting in sooner, but so long as it isn't hurting and you're keeping it clean, my experience was that this isn't necessarily an emergency situation.
posted by DingoMutt at 12:07 PM on August 6, 2013

Best answer: I had the same thing happen not long ago and the consensus from a couple of dentists I called on a Saturday morning was that it wasn't as immediate an issue as I thought it was in my "holy fuck, my tooth just... broke!" mode. If you're not in pain, you can probably wait a few days.

In my case the big issue was that the remaining tooth suddenly had a forward facing point that I'm pretty sure would have cut glass, and it irritated the hell out of my tongue until simply swallowing was intensely painful and eating was pretty much right out. The dentist's advice was to chew up some sugarless gum and make a little cap over the broken tooth to protect my tongue. This worked like a charm.

In short, I totally get why this would freak you out, but you should be fine.
posted by Naberius at 12:10 PM on August 6, 2013

Best answer: I had a similar experience as DingoMutt. Although I think I actually waited about a month until my regularly scheduled appt. I ended up needing a crown (but not a root canal), but that wasn't because I waited... just too much of the tooth was gone.
posted by kimdog at 12:11 PM on August 6, 2013

Best answer: I had a similar issue -- a back molar with a deep cavity just broke in half. No pain or anything , although the tooth had been root canalled previously so I probably had no nerves left anyway. Regardless, I thought it was a huge deal but my dentists office wasn't in nearly the same hurry I was. In the end I needed a crown, but thats because there was only half a tooth left.

If it were me, I'd call the dentists office anyway (assuming they're open even though your dentist is on vacation), and see what they recommend. But knowing what I know now, waiting a week wouldn't bother me as long as there's no pain or real discomfort.
posted by cgg at 12:23 PM on August 6, 2013

Best answer: One of my friends had this happen and there was a jagged edge that hurt her tongue. Her dentist told her to use dental wax like this to cover the sharp area until she could come in. I'd still call the dentist's office to double-check, but if it's not hurting and you can keep it clean, waiting a few days shouldn't be an issue.
posted by bedhead at 12:30 PM on August 6, 2013

Best answer: I broke off a piece of my molar on a Friday. The dentist just told me to come in on Monday. It was bad, but not exactly an emergency. You just have to be careful in the meantime. Obviously don't brush near the open tooth, and be careful with hot/cold foods. Feel better!
posted by destructive cactus at 1:01 PM on August 6, 2013

Best answer: Should I go to another dentist sooner?

No. Dental emergencies are paining emergencies. Your mouth will be fine for a week. Brush, floss, and gargle with extra care.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:19 PM on August 6, 2013

Best answer: I had this happen 4 months ago. My Stateside dentist told me to keep it clean until I can visit my Mexican dentist in January. If it starts to hurt, he said he'd deal with it, for his usual exorbitant fee, but he said there was enough tooth there that it shouldn't be a problem for me to wait.
YM, of course, MV.
posted by Floydd at 2:17 PM on August 6, 2013

Best answer: Call the dentist. It may not be a big deal; it might be. In the meanwhile, brush and swish a *lot*.

Also, be prepared to have "oh my god my teeth are breaking, I'm falling apart, I'll be dead soon!" thoughts. I'm the farthest thing from a hypochondriac, yet had these thoughts. They'll pass, especially once the dentist fixes you up.
posted by notsnot at 2:29 PM on August 6, 2013

Best answer: I've been sitting on a broken wisdom tooth (around half of it is missing at this point) for almost two years now. With my dentist's blessing, I am putting off having it extracted until I can afford to deal with all four wisdom teeth at the same time. So far it hasn't caused any problems--just part of being not-rich in America.

If this is a tooth you want to save, however (if that's even possible) you should check in with your dentist.
posted by pullayup at 2:47 PM on August 6, 2013

Best answer: I would call and ask a dentist but I've broken several teeth and none of them got fixed faster than 2 or 3 weeks later with no ill effects.
posted by interplanetjanet at 3:06 PM on August 6, 2013

Best answer: I lived with a broken molar for about a decade. Then one day it started hurting, and I got it pulled. No biggie. You'll be right.
posted by pompomtom at 6:31 PM on August 6, 2013

Best answer: Just went to the dentist today, partly because something similar happened to one of my teeth. Part of the filling broke, part of it is intact, part is trapped and can't get out, noooo! Seriously though, it doesn't hurt and my dentist didn't seem worried at all that it happened a couple of weeks ago. The worst thing is that I poke the irregularity with my tongue, which starts to irritate my tongue - also perfectly normal. I'm going in next week to have the filling replaced. I would say you're fine for a few days as long as you're not in serious pain. People have made good suggestions about rough bits. I would say do still brush and floss, but be a bit gentler with that bit. That's what I've been doing and the dentist seemed to think that was good.
posted by Athanassiel at 7:24 PM on August 6, 2013

Best answer: This happened to me several weeks ago while I was on vacation. I overreacted, as per usual and went to see a dentist on the fly where we were visiting. They took an x ray, confirmed that my massive filling came out, and shoved some temporary filling gunk up in there until I could get to my regular dentist. I ended up getting sick upon return home so it was about two weeks before I went to the dentist. Dentist did everything to get the tooth ready for a crown but I've just in the past few days started to experience a dull ache in response to warm beverages and hot food so I'm off to the endodontist on Monday to see if a root canal is in my future.

The emergency dentist office recommended orthodontic wax if the temporary filling stuff came out and generally indicated that this was not as big of a deal as I felt it was (jagged parts! in my mouth!).
posted by splitinfinitive at 7:28 PM on August 6, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody, you gave me some peace of mind. I'll keep it clean, and I'll see the dentist next week, hopefully no root canal (still no pain!).
posted by TheGoodBlood at 9:49 PM on August 6, 2013

One last comment: maybe hold off on eating things with little seeds, like poppy/raspberry. The lil' buggers get in there and are tough to get out (unless you go brush immediately) and are annoying in the meantime. This comment was brought to you by my tongue and the raspberry muffin I just ate.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:26 PM on August 6, 2013

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