Though it may sound hard to believe, it is possible to sprain a tooth. Just as an awkward fall can sprain an ankle, an unexpectedly hard item of food or even a clash of heads during a sports game can sprain a tooth.

But how is that possible?

Teeth Have Ligaments Too

Like the joints of your body, your teeth are anchored by ligaments known as periodontal ligaments. Composed mostly of water, these ligaments hold your teeth in place while at the same time allowing them enough flexibility for you to comfortably chew.

If your teeth didn't have periodontal ligaments, you would not be able to tell how much force is required to adequately masticate your food. Chips and breakages of teeth would be an everyday occurrence.

How Might You Sprain a Tooth?

Although periodontal ligaments are flexible and able to accommodate chewing forces, they may become inflamed if they are exposed to exceptionally strong or unnatural forces. This is what can then be called a "sprained tooth" because the unusually strong force has stretched the ligaments beyond their normal limits. When this happens, you will experience a toothache similar to that caused by dental decay or infection.

The most common cause of a sprained tooth is bruxism (nocturnal grinding), but teeth can also be sprained by sudden and hard impacts like biting down on something unexpectedly hard. Dental surgery can also lead to a sprained tooth in some cases.

Determine the Cause Before Seeking Treatment

Under normal circumstances, you may be able to recall what might have caused the injury, for example a clash of heads while bending to pick something up. However, if you cannot recall the moment the injury may have occurred, you should speak to your dentist. You may be grinding your teeth at night without knowing it and your dentist will be able to confirm this for you.

If you are sure that your toothache was caused by a collision of some kind, then you probably won't need the intervention of your dentist. However, if after examining the tooth, you spot something unusual such as a crack, or a change in colour, you should book a dental appointment. Cracks serve as conduits for bacteria and colour changes may signify that the nerve has died.

Rest is the Best Cure for a Sprained Tooth

A sprained tooth will heal on its own within a week or two. However, like a sprained ankle, it does need rest. Though refraining from using your sprained tooth may prove difficult depending on its location, you can help the healing process by eating softer foods until the tooth is healed. However, if despite your best efforts, your toothache worsens, you may be grinding your teeth at night or during the day due to stress. In this case, see your dentist to discuss the possibility of wearing a night guard.