Fractured Facade: What to Do When You Break One or More of Your Teeth

If any situation could possibly be worse than breaking a tooth, it’s breaking two of them. Dental damage can be remarkably painful and have hideous cosmetic consequences, too. Besides being part of your appearance, teeth are also crucial to your whole-body health. In the interest of happy smiles and well being, we are pleased to offer this helpful advice about what to do if you should happen to fracture one or more of your pearly whites.

Causes of tooth fracture

Teeth can take a lot of pressure and are not easily broken. There are, however, a number of ways a tooth can be fractured. Common causes of tooth fracture include facial trauma, such as being hit in the face with a baseball or a fist, taking a fall, or biting down on a misplaced pebble or bit of steak bone. People who chew ice are prone to dental fractures, too. Old-style amalgam fillings that no longer fit properly may also lead to tooth fracture. Cavities are another leading cause of weakened and easily fractured teeth.

Untreated periodontal disease can weaken teeth to the point of breakage. Teeth that have endured a root canal but were never topped with a crown may be more prone to fracturing than whole, healthy teeth. Persons who use their teeth for activities other than chewing food may find themselves with a badly broken tooth, as well.

First aid for a broken tooth

There is no real DIY at-home treatment for a broken tooth. A broken tooth may not even be fully evident until you sip a cold beverage or take a bite of a delicious sandwich. If and when you suffer trauma to a tooth, your best bet is to consult with a dentist without delay.

In the meantime, place a knocked-out tooth in a glass of milk. Adults who can cooperate may place the knocked-out tooth between their cheek and gum as they travel quickly to an emergency dental clinic. This may spare the root and allow the tooth to be re-implanted. Only your dentist will know if this procedure makes sense for your particular situation. Colgate recommends rinsing your mouth with warm water and biting gently on a piece of clean gauze to stanch any bleeding. Many people find comfort by biting lightly on a wet tea bag until they can get to a dentist. An over the counter pain reliever such as Tylenol or Advil may alleviate pain until a dentist can be seen.

Types of tooth fractures

Each tooth comprises several parts, and each of them is susceptible to fracturing. The hard, white, outermost layer is called the tooth enamel, and it can be fractured vertically, horizontally or diagonally, explains Medicine Net. Underneath the enamel lies the dentin. This yellowish layer serves to protect the innermost living part of the tooth that’s called the pulp. The part of the tooth you can see above the gum line is called the crown. Below the gum, you’ll find the root. Not all tooth fractures are visible. If you suffer tooth trauma, your dentist may take a  radiograph, or X-ray to see what’s happening below the gum line.


Slight “craze” lines that affect only the thin enamel veneer may be seen at your next dentist appointment. Enamel fractures and fractures that affect the dentin should be addressed by a dentist within 48 hours.

Dental emergencies

Certain tooth fractures are more serious than others. Root fractures and fractures of the tooth pulp are serious emergencies and should be treated as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours. The same applies to tooth displacement, subluxation, tooth extrusion or lateral luxation. The sooner you can be seen by a dentist following a fracture, the better your odds of saving the tooth and your beautiful smile.

Can your tooth or teeth be saved?

Dentists at Washington Center for Cosmetic Dentistry and other dental offices have several options when it comes to sparing you from loss of a damaged tooth. Sometimes, a dental splint can be used to stabilize a damaged tooth to its neighbors. For a pulp fracture, the dentist may perform a root canal, then top off the broken tooth with a cosmetic crown.

If you want to avoid breaking a tooth, stay out of situations where you might be assaulted. Wear oral protection when playing sports and don’t chew anything that isn’t food.

Scott Pritchard works on reception at a busy dental practice and is often the first person a patient will speak to when having a dental emergency. He shares some of his dental knowledge in his articles which appear on health and lifestyle blogs.