Although human teeth are harder than human bone, they don't have the same healing capacity. While broken bones will begin to heal within a few days, broken teeth can never be the same again. Although a broken tooth hurts far less than a broken bone does, it is still an emergency if the break is severe.
Only Part of a Tooth Can Heal
Unlike a bone, which can regenerate when broken, a tooth can only heal partially. The enamel layer of teeth is a crystalline-like substance that while extremely hard, cannot repair itself once it is damaged. However, the porous layer underneath enamel, dentin, can heal when given time. Unfortunately, without its enamel layer to protect it, the innards of a tooth are at risk of exposure to bacterial organisms in the mouth. The speed of infection depends on the severity of the fracture.
Severe Fractures Are Dental Emergencies
If you have chipped your tooth and lost a piece of the enamel layer covering it, you can probably leave it untreated for a week or two. However, you will need to stay away from acidic foods and drinks in that time because they can penetrate the spongy tubules in the dentin layer. You'll also need to keep your broken tooth as clean as possible.
However, if your tooth has broken in half or is missing a large chunk, then this is an emergency. If you can see a layer of yellow material at the breakage site, inside the tooth, then the break has exposed the dentin layer. You can't leave a tooth that is broken to this extent, without treatment.
The bacteria that live in your mouth can invade teeth by traveling up the dentinal tubules in dentin. Once inside the centre of the tooth, which houses the nerves and blood vessels, bacterial organisms multiply and fill the tiny space until it becomes so cramped that you begin to feel pressure inside the tooth. White blood cells will also enter the tooth to kill invading bacteria.
A Dental Abscess Could Form
The buildup of pressure in an infected tooth, along with the acids produced by the invading bacteria, will eventually kill a tooth's nerve. If this happens, an abscess will form at the tip of the tooth's root. That abscess, which contains pus, could spread to the bone and periodontal structures surrounding the tooth. Ideally, you need to get to your dentist long before infection sets in.
A badly broken tooth is a dental emergency. However, you can wait a couple of weeks to repair a minor break that hasn't yet exposed the dentin. To better understand your situation, contact an emergency dentistry.