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Broken Teeth – Causes, Complications, Solutions

Excerpt: If you chip a tooth, it may not seem like an immediate issue, it might not even hurt at all or cause you any problems at first...
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Broken Tooth

Broken teeth usually occur as a result of injury, bruxism, dental decay, or if a tooth has had significant dental work done.

If you chip a tooth, it may not seem like an immediate issue, it might not even hurt at all or cause you any problems at first. However, a broken tooth can have some pretty serious complications if it’s not taken care of sooner than later.

How To Spot A Chipped Tooth

A fractured tooth is generally one of the easier dental issues that can be diagnosed by a patient even before a dentist looks at it. Here are some of the signs and symptoms to look out for:


  • Fractured bits of teeth – The tooth will break apart in pieces in your mouth, if you ever feel like your biting down on sand or gravel, it may be bits of the enamel.
  • Rough surface on the tooth – Tooth fractures will often leave sharp jagged edges where the tooth broke, If the tooth does feel sharp, be aware of it and try not to chew, or apply pressure on it.
  • Unexplained Sensitivity – Fractures may expose the inner parts of the tooth which can be very sensitive to things like temperature, if the sensitivity is sudden and severe, it could be a break.
  • Unexplained blood or swelling – Your gums, cheek, or tongue may be cut by the tooth, this may cause some bleeding, their could also be swelling due to irritation or infection.
Man lying on side with toothache
Broken Teeth - Causes, Complications, Solutions - 2 - Smiles Dental Group

How is a chipped tooth treated?

The break of the tooth will dictate what choices you have available, if it is only a minor break, then a crown might be an option, but severe breaks will require greater restoration. If you are able to save the piece that broke off, try to find a glass of water or ideally milk, to keep the tooth from drying out. Afterwards, get to the dentist as soon as you can with the broken piece of tooth.

A dentist will take a composite resin or porcelain material and shape it to your tooth. Afterwards they will use ultraviolet light to harden the filling. Bonded fillings are quite durable so they can last a decade or more with little upkeep.

Veneers are another option for breaks. A dentist will create an impression of your tooth and a veneer will be created in a lab. Once the veneer is ready, the dentist will shave away a small amount of enamel on the affected tooth, afterwards, the veneer will be inserted onto the tooth. Veneers are even more durable than bonded fillings and can last as much or more than 30 years.

If the break is on the surface of the tooth, a dental onlay may be inserted, this is ideal if only a small area of your tooth was affect by the break. An onlay will need to be created in the lab as well, so the dentist will need to send a mold of your tooth to start that process. Onlays are strong as well, they can last for decades with no extra special care or maintenance.

If the break is significant, a dental crown may be used to replace the upper part of the tooth structure. This will also be recommended if the crack weakens the structural integrity of the tooth. If the tooth is still mostly intact the dentist will usually do everything they can to save the original tooth before looking to replacement options.

How do you care for a broken tooth?

For a permanent solution you will need to see a dentist, and they can rely on their professional opinion to decide which solution will be best for your situation. However, if you are unable to get to a dentist right away, then you should protect your broken tooth with one of the following methods:
  • Carefully place a temporary filling around the break – If the tooth does is not painful to touch it, you can use a product like sugar-free gum, or dental wax to protect your mouth against the jagged edge of the cut. This may also stave off infection by covering up any exposure.
  • Take pain reducing medication – You’ll probably have pain or local swelling, you should take the recommended dose of drugs like Advil or Tylenol to help with these issues.
  • Cold compress – Pressing something cold or frozen against the side of the face with the break will help reduce any swelling that may occur.
  • Remove any local food particles – Make sure the area is free of anything that may cause more pressure on the tooth, do this carefully as the tooth will be compromised.
  • Avoid any pressure on the tooth – If you are able, eat only soft foods until the tooth is restored, and try to chew with the other side of the mouth to avoid any further breakage.
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