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What is a broken tooth?

A tooth may become broken in a number of diverse ways such as due to forceful impacts, tooth decay, and poorly fitted restorations. If the fracture is small, within the enamel layer of the tooth, often the patients have no symptoms at all.  In more complex cases where the dentine, as sometimes even the pulp, becomes exposed, the tooth may become incredibly sensitive and even painful.  It is highly recommended that you seek the guidance and treatment of a dentist as if left unattended, a broken tooth can develop into a more serious complication e.g., infection.

Symptoms of a broken tooth

A broken tooth will be evident via visual inspection. Common signs of a ‘broken tooth’ include:

  • A piece of the enamel may become chipped. In some cases, the chip might be small enough that it does not expose the interior of the tooth, but it may be unsightly and feel uncomfortable or jagged.
  • If the fracture involves the dentine, it becomes more visible that the tooth is broken and it may result in significant sensitivity.
  • If the fracture was more serious, the whole crown of the tooth may have been broken, leaving its root still stuck in the gum and bone. This usually results in swelling around the gum line and is probably very painful.

Speak to a dental professional today

Our dentists have all the experience, skill and technology required to diagnose and treat your broken tooth. Arrange an appointment with our dental team at our central London dental clinic, situated on the prestigious Wimpole Street.

What is the most common cause of a broken tooth?

In most instances a broken tooth is caused by the following:

  • Severe trauma to the mouth and tooth. This might be from a physical object hitting the area with speed and pressure e.g., a knock, fall or impact. This is particularly common among people who play contact sports.
  • Biting or chewing on a hard item can weaken and break the enamel e.g., chewing a pen
  • Tooth decay can weaken the enamel and tooth and cause sections of it to detach. Tooth decay is most often caused by poor oral health and hygiene.
  • Unfortunately, age is another simple but common cause, particularly on patients who suffer from bruxism (tooth grinding). As time goes by, the damage from excessive forces will weaken the teeth and fractures can become more common.
  • Teeth grinding (bruxism) puts unnecessary pressure on the teeth and can cause them to weaken over time.

How do you fix a broken tooth?

Thankfully, there are lots of options to fix a broken tooth, though it does depend on how much damage has been done.

  • Try to keep the fragment separated from the tooth. It may be very useful to your dentist, as it can be glued back, or used as a template for a future restoration.
  • If the fracture is simple and small, your dentist may recommend using a resin bonding – white filling – to fill the cracked/fractured area.
  • In some cases, your dentist may achieve an aesthetically better result with a ceramic veneer.
  • If the tooth has extensive damage, then your dentist might use a ceramic cap called a crown that can be fitted over the tooth.
  • If the nerve of the tooth has been affected, root canal treatment might be needed before restoring the damaged area
  • The worst case scenario is if the damage is so large that any restoration would likely fail. In those cases, extraction of the tooth may be needed in order to avoid further complications. The empty space could then be restored with a dental implant.


Prof Christian Mehl

Written by: Prof Dr Christian Mehl

A certified implantologist and prosthodontics specialist with 20+ years in dentistry, I conduct clinical research, teach at University of Kiel, and contribute to implant system development. Recipient of the Camlog Research Award, I frequently publish and deliver global lectures.

Clinically reviewed by: Dr Raul Costa

When did we last update this page?

Our expert team continually update and research the latest news and techniques in dentistry, as such we regularly update our pages and have these clinically reviewed.

Current Version

July 21st 2023

  • Added “when did we last update this page” and author biography to the page.

Written by: Prof Dr Christian Mehl

Medically reviewed by: Dr Raul Costa

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October 2nd 2022

  • Page redesigned and updated to reflect change in address.

Written by: Prof Dr Christian Mehl

Medically reviewed by: Dr Raul Costa

30th August 2021

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Written by: Prof Dr Christian Mehl

Medically reviewed by: Dr Raul Costa

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