Chipped and broken teeth: causes and solutions

Our teeth are really strong, but with the many stresses and strains that they have to endure, they can chip, crack or break.  

Common cause of these breaks can include:

  • Eating something hard
  • Facial trauma following an accident
  • Damage from sports
  • Untreated cavities can cause a tooth to become brittle and break
  • Old, large amalgam fillings, where the remaining structure of the natural tooth can become brittle over a period of time

Broken teeth may not necessarily cause immediate pain. If the break has travelled to the nerve, you might experience occasional discomfort when chewing, for example, or sensitivity to hot and cold. Whether you are in pain or not, all breaks should be investigated by your Portman dentist as soon as possible in order to check the health and satiability of the tooth, and to provide necessary treatment to prevent further deterioration or problems.

Treatment for fractures and broken teeth

Teeth with minor chips on the edges usually don’t cause any pain or problems, but your dentist may suggest a repair by smoothing the edge and inserting a tooth-coloured filling. This will prevent the rough edge from cutting your lips or tongue.

Heavily fractured and seriously broken teeth may require more complex treatments, as these problems may be due to a cavity. A large cavity can cause fractures and breaks and, if left, will become extremely painful. Tooth cavities can also cause infections along the exposed gum line and pulp (root canal, nerves and connective tissue).  In cases such as these, root canal treatment may be necessary. Cracks and breaks can  also expose your nerve endings, making the teeth sensitive to hot and cold air and foods.

Root canal treatment isn’t always necessary for cracked and chipped teeth. Where there’s no pain or infection, cracks can be filled and bound together with a specialised tooth cement, while a broken tooth will be fixed with a crown. Crowns are also used as part of the treatment for other types of splits and breaks, such as broken cusps, split roots or vertical breaks, split molars, and as a precaution against further cracks. As a last resort, if your tooth has decayed from the inside-out and is irrevocably broken, your Portman dentist may recommend that your tooth is removed.

A cracked or broken tooth may not be noticeable or necessarily hurt, but just because it’s not causing any trouble doesn’t mean you should ignore it. No matter how minor you think it may be, its part of a good oral health routine to have any abnormalities investigated by your Portman dentist. Infections can arise quickly, so you want to make sure that you get the correct treatment as soon as possible. With regular check ups and discussions with your dentist, you can stop fractures and cracks from developing into problems.

What to do if you break your tooth  

If you’ve fractured or broken a tooth, follow these steps immediately before booking an appointment with your Portman dentist.

  • Rinse your mouth out with warm water
  • Apply pressure on any bleeding areas using gauze or a wet teabag
  • Apply an icepack to your cheek if there’s any swelling
  • If you have access to it, cover any major cracks with temporary dental cement
  • If it’s painful, use an over the counter pain reliever such as paracetamol (unless your GP has advised otherwise)
  • Cover any broken teeth with milk, saliva or saline solution

If your tooth is broken, make sure you don’t brush it, and make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible. Your Portman dentist will discuss with you the best method of repairing the break, which could be one or a combination of fillings, crowns and root canal treatments.

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