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.