A dentist showing an x-ray to a patient in a dental office.

Broken Wisdom Tooth: Adverse Side Effects If Left Untreated

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

If you or a family member breaks one of your wisdom teeth, what’s the wisest thing to do?

A. Avoid chewing food on the side of the broken wisdom tooth.

B. Very gently clean your back teeth, including your broken molar. (Did we mention: Wisdom teeth are known as your third molars.)

C. Make a dental appointment asap.

If you choose A, B, and C, you’re very wise indeed. But the wisest thing to do is C: Call your dentist’s office immediately. Once you learn the side effects of an untreated broken molar, you’ll know why contacting your dental professional is the best thing to do.

What Can Damage Your Wisdom Teeth?

Of course, any sort of trauma, be it biting down on hard candy or taking a blow to your face, can cause a molar to break. But surprisingly, the actual eruption of your wisdom teeth – typically between your late teens and early 20s – can cause breakage for these reasons:

  • Its neighboring molar might be over the spot where the wisdom tooth strives to emerge.
  • It might erupt at an odd angle.
  • It might have been damaged pre-eruption.

Also, if you experience an easy eruption, but your wisdom tooth ends up rotting because of decay, it’s more prone to break.

Infection and Decay

When it comes to a chipped or broken wisdom tooth, time is of the essence to prevent further oral health issues. With an untreated broken wisdom tooth, there’s usually a crack or hole that’s more vulnerable to bacteria and decay. And that can cause a chain reaction you’ll definitely want to prevent:

  • If bacteria enter your cracked molar, it could start decaying because it’s difficult to clean the break. And you could end up with an infected tooth.
  • A tooth infection can spread to the surrounding gum tissue, to other teeth, and to your jaw.
  • If not stopped, the infection might even spread to other parts of your body, leading to additional health issues.

Signs of an infected wisdom tooth include:

  • Swelling around the site of the broken tooth and nearby tissue
  • Throbbing pain
  • Fever

We want to prevent any of the above from becoming your reality, so please seek treatment as soon as the break occurs.

Treatment Options

Now that you know why you should get a dental appointment right away, what can you expect?

After taking X-rays to access the break and the tooth, treatment depends on factors such as:

  • Position of the tooth in your mouth before it broke
  • Cause of the break
  • Extent of the break

If your wisdom tooth is otherwise healthy and in a good position, talk to your dental professional. Discuss what they would recommend for your situation.

Removing the wisdom tooth will require an oral surgeon’s services. Before that appointment, your dentist might prescribe antibiotics and recommend a pain reliever that’s also an anti-inflammatory to help ease pre-extraction symptoms.

Yes, breaking a wisdom tooth can be a pain – both literally and figuratively – but by immediately taking steps to deal with it, you can feel better faster. Feel better by stopping the pain. Feel better by saving you the expense of further oral treatments resulting from the side effects of a decaying molar. And feel better knowing your dental professional will advise you on the best way to treat a broken wisdom tooth.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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