What to Do If Your Tooth Breaks

Posted by Dr. John Paul Gallardo, DDS, PA
How a dentist repairs your tooth depends on the extent of the damage.
How a dentist repairs your tooth depends on the extent of the damage.

Having a broken tooth can be painful and alarming. Knowing what to do about it is essential to minimize the damage and ensure the best possible outcome for your oral health. This article provides valuable information about cracked teeth, their causes, and the differences between a cracked and a chipped tooth. Dr. Gallardo, a periodontist in Miami, FL, also offers guidance on what to do if you suspect you have a cracked tooth and how to fix a broken tooth. 

About Cracked Teeth

Cracked teeth are common dental problems that can result from a variety of issues. Damaged teeth can cause discomfort, pain, and sensitivity, making it difficult to eat or drink. If left untreated, a cracked tooth can lead to complications, such as infection or tooth loss.

What Causes Chipped and Broken Teeth?

Several factors can contribute to chipped and broken teeth, including:

  • Accidents or injuries involving the face or mouth
  • Chewing on hard objects or foods, such as nuts, ice, or candy
  • Tooth decay, which weakens the tooth structure and makes it more susceptible to breakage
  • Large fillings that weaken the tooth structure
  • Teeth grinding (bruxism) or clenching, which can cause excessive wear and tear on the teeth
  • Sudden changes in temperature, such as consuming hot and cold foods or beverages in quick succession

The Difference Between a Cracked Tooth and Chipped Tooth

A tooth with a fracture or split extending from the chewing surface toward the root is referred to as a cracked tooth. It can be painful and may cause sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages. On the other hand, a tooth is chipped when a small piece of tooth enamel has broken off, usually due to an injury or biting down on a hard object. Chipped teeth may not cause pain or sensitivity, but they can still lead to more dental issues if left untreated.

What to Do If You Suspect You Have a Cracked Tooth

Make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.

Seeing a dentist as soon as possible is crucial if you think you have a cracked tooth. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent additional complications and save the tooth.

Explain to the dentist what happened and where you feel pain or discomfort.

Provide your dentist with as much information as possible about the incident that led to the cracked tooth and any symptoms you are experiencing. This will help determine the best course of action for your specific situation.

Be prepared to answer questions about your medical history, lifestyle habits, and diet.

Your dentist will likely ask you questions about your overall health, dental hygiene habits, and any factors that may have contributed to the cracked tooth. Be honest and thorough in your answers to help your dentist provide the most appropriate treatment.

Include any medications you may be taking, including over-the-counter drugs.

Certain medications can affect your dental health or interact with treatments your dentist may recommend. Be sure to inform your dentist of any medications you are currently taking to avoid a medical emergency. 

Take pictures of the affected tooth if possible.

Documenting the condition of the affected tooth is important, and one way to do this is by taking clear pictures, if possible. This can help your dentist better understand the extent of the damage and devise the most effective treatment plan.

Avoid eating hard foods that could further damage the tooth.

It’s crucial to protect the cracked tooth from additional harm, including avoiding hard foods that could exacerbate the damage. Opt for softer foods and chew on the opposite side of your mouth until you can receive professional dental care.

Try to identify the source of your pain, such as cold or hot foods and drinks.

Pay attention to when your tooth pain or discomfort occurs, as this can help your dentist determine the severity of the crack and the most appropriate treatment. If you experience tooth sensitivity when consuming cold or hot foods and beverages, it may indicate that the crack has reached the inner layers of the tooth.

How to Fix a Broken Tooth?

The treatment for a broken tooth depends on the extent of the damage and the severity of the crack. Your dentist will recommend the most suitable dental treatment option based on their assessment of the situation.

For a Minimal Crack – Dental Bonding

Dental bonding is a procedure that involves applying tooth-colored composite resin to the affected tooth to repair minor cracks. A special light is used to harden the resin after it has been shaped to match the tooth’s natural contours. This treatment is relatively quick, non-invasive, and can last for several years.

For a Moderate Crack – Dental Crown

Dental crowns, custom-made caps that cover the entire visible part of the tooth, offer support and protection. They are usually made from porcelain, ceramic, or metal and are designed to resemble the color and shape of your natural teeth. This treatment is more invasive than dental bonding but offers a longer-lasting solution.

For a Severe Crack – Root Canal Therapy or Extraction

A root canal procedure may be necessary if the crack reaches the tooth’s pulp. This procedure involves removing the damaged pulp, cleaning the tooth’s interior, and sealing it with a filling material. A dental crown is usually placed over the tooth to provide additional support and protection.

In cases where the tooth is severely damaged and cannot be saved, tooth extraction may be the only option. After the tooth is removed, a dental implant or bridge can be used to replace the missing tooth and restore function and appearance.

How to Fix a Broken Tooth?

Some common warning signs of a broken tooth include:

  • Sharp pain when biting down or chewing
  • Increased sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages
  • Swelling or inflammation around the affected tooth
  • Visible cracks or chips in the tooth’s outer enamel

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s essential to see a dentist as soon as possible to prevent additional damage.

Preventing Broken and Chipped Teeth

There are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of breaking or chipping a tooth:

Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings.

Regular dental visits can help identify and treat potential issues before they become more severe. Your dentist can provide personalized advice on how to maintain good oral health and prevent tooth damage.

Wear a mouth guard while playing contact sports.

A custom-fit mouth guard can protect your teeth from injury during sports or other high-impact activities.

Eat a balanced diet with plenty of calcium-rich foods.

A healthy diet that includes calcium-rich foods, such as dairy products, leafy greens, and nuts, can help strengthen your teeth and reduce the risk of breakage.

Brush and floss daily to remove plaque build-up.

Good oral hygiene practices, including brushing and flossing daily, can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease, which can weaken the tooth structure and increase the risk of a dental emergency

Wear a night guard if you grind your teeth while sleeping.

Over time, teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, can lead to significant damage to your teeth. Wearing a custom-fitted night guard can help protect your teeth from the excessive forces generated during grinding, reducing the risk of cracks and chips.

Use caution when biting into hard candy or food items.

Be mindful of the foods you eat and avoid biting down on hard or chewy items that could cause damage to your teeth. Cut these items into smaller pieces or let them dissolve in your mouth instead.

Understanding the Cost of Treating a Broken Tooth

The type of treatment required and the severity of the damage determine the cost of dental repairs. Dental bonding is typically the most affordable option, while dental crowns and root canal treatment can be more expensive. Extraction and dental implants or bridges may also be costly. Dental plans will often pay, or partially pay for the treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions about Broken Tooth

What is the cheapest way to repair a broken tooth?

Dental bonding is usually the most affordable option for repairing minor cracks or chips in a tooth. However, your dentist can determine the most appropriate treatment plan for your specific situation.

Can a dentist fix a badly broken tooth?

In many cases, a dentist can repair a badly broken tooth with a dental crown or root canal therapy. However, if the tooth is severely damaged and cannot be saved, extraction and replacement with a dental implant or bridge may be necessary.

Can a fully cracked tooth be saved?

A dental crown and root canal therapy can sometimes save a fully cracked tooth. However, if the crack extends below the gum line or compromises the tooth’s structural integrity, extraction may be the only option.

How can I cover a cracked tooth at home?

While waiting for a dental appointment, you can temporarily cover a cracked tooth with sugar-free gum or dental wax to protect the tooth and alleviate any discomfort. However, this is not a long-term solution and professional dental care is necessary to properly repair the tooth.

How do you fix cracked teeth naturally?

There is no natural remedy for repairing cracked teeth. It’s essential to seek professional dental care to ensure the tooth is properly treated and to prevent further dental damage.

What if my tooth broke in half and it hurts?

If your tooth has broken in half and is causing pain, it’s crucial to see a dentist as soon as possible. In the meantime, take an over-the-counter pain reliever as needed, avoid biting down on the affected tooth, and apply a cold compress to the outside of your cheek to help reduce swelling and discomfort.

Keeping your teeth and gums healthy can also reduce your risk of breaking a tooth at some point. If you haven’t seen a periodontist for a check-up, now’s a good time to do so. In Miami, Dr. John Paul Gallardo can check on the health of your gums and teeth and recommend any appropriate treatments. To schedule a consultation with the periodontists, call (305) 447-1447 today.