What is a broken tooth?

Firstly, it is important to note that breaking a tooth is not a dental emergency and is rarely immediately serious. A broken tooth is readily repaired by a dentist and there are multiple treatment options (such as a filling, crown, or veneer) that can help restore the function and appearance of a broken tooth.

A tooth may become broken in a number of diverse ways such as due to forceful impacts, tooth decay and even old age. Whilst a broken tooth is not an emergency, it is highly recommended that you seek the guidance and treatment of a dentist as left unattended, a broken tooth can develop with more serious complications e.g., infection.

A ‘broken tooth’ describes a wide variety of different situations. A tooth may be broken when the enamel exterior is chipped or cracked away. Loss of enamel is usually not painful but exposure to the dentin and pulp inside the tooth can be incredibly sensitive and sore. Damage to the enamel can allow bacteria to easily infect the exposed dentin and subsequently the pulp over time and this can cause further pain and dental issues.

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.
  • A crack on the exterior (and sometimes interior) of the enamel may be visible. There are a number of different cracks to look out for:
    • Hairline crack – small and thin in appearance, these cracks appear on the outer enamel of your tooth.
    • Vertical root fracture – the crack is likely to start below your gum line and might travel down all the way to the tip of the root.
    • Split tooth – the crack may appear to run the entire height of the tooth and look like it is split into two.
  • A tooth may have such a deep crack that the interior dentin and pulp is visibly exposed. It may appear that the tooth has “cracked in half” entirely.
  • In some instances, a broken tooth can constitute a tooth that has been knocked out entirely (e.g., this is common in contact sports). Alternatively, the tooth may be broken but the root may still appear in the gum exposed.
  • There may be obvious swelling at around the broken tooth at the gum line.

Common symptoms of an exposed pulp can include:

  • Sensitivity to hot and cold food and drink.
  • Pain when exposed to air.
  • Throbbing sensation near the surrounded area.
  • Pain when chewing, eating, or talking.

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 amongst patients 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. As we get older, our teeth weaken in strength and tooth cracks 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.

  • If the break is simple and small, then your dentist might recommend using a plastic resin bonding to fill the cracked/fractured area.
  • Alternatively, if there is a crack to the tooth that is aesthetically unappealing but not too large in nature, your dentist might recommend a veneer to be placed over the front of the tooth.
  • If the tooth has extensive damage, then your dentist might use a porcelain or ceramic cap called a crown that can be fitted over the tooth.
  • If the nerve of the tooth is affected, a root canal treatment might be needed before replacing the damaged area with a partial crown or a full crown
  • If the root and nerves of your tooth are extremely damaged, then your dentist may extract the tooth entirely to avoid further complications and fit a dental implant in its place.