Broken tooth or filling?

Teeth are usually strong, but they can still break or crack. When this happens, don’t panic. Your dentist has methods to fix it.

What causes a broken tooth or a broken filling?

Most tooth fractures are caused by trauma, but they can also happen simply by biting down on something hard. You are more likely to crack a tooth when you have cavities or tooth decay.

What should I do when I break a tooth or filling?

When you break or fracture a tooth, you should see a dentist as soon as possible. Otherwise, the tooth could become infected and you may end up losing the tooth. The dentist will determine if it was caused by a cavity and whether your tooth’s nerve is in danger.

Before you can see the dentist, you can care for it by:

  • Rinsing your mouth with warm (salt)water.
  • Taking over-the-counter pain relief if the tooth is painful.
  • Applying a cold pack to the lips over the tooth that is broken, this helps avoid swelling and pain.
  • If the broken tooth has a sharp edge, try to cover it with sugarless chewing gum, wax, or temporary dental cement (available at some chemists).
  • Eat soft food and avoid pressure or biting on the broken tooth.

What treatments are available for a broken tooth or filling?

Different tooth breaks require different treatments, it depends on how severely the tooth is damaged.

  • Minor cracks that affect only the enamel (the outer white surface of the tooth) are called ‘craze lines’. When a craze line occurs, your dentist may polish the tooth to smooth it out.
  • A chip. If a piece of enamel chipped off your tooth, the dentist will usually repair it with a filling. When the piece is small, a polish may be all that is needed.
  • If a large piece breaks off or the tooth has a lot of decay, the dentist may have to file away part of your tooth and put on a crown or a cap.
  • If the crack is severe and the nerves and other tissues are damaged, you may require a root canal treatment. During this procedure, the exposed nerve will be removed and the tooth will be sealed.
  • If there is a serious break, in cases where the tooth is broken vertically, the roots are affected and/or when the tooth has serious decay, the whole tooth may have to be removed.

Can you prevent a broken tooth or a broken filling?

To prevent teeth from chipping or breaking, you should keep your teeth in good health (brushing, avoiding sugary foods, etc). Breaks can also be prevented by protecting yourself with a mouth guard while playing certain sports, by avoiding chewing on hard foods, and by getting a retainer or mouth guard if you have a habit of grinding or clenching your teeth.

Learn more!

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