Even though your tooth enamel is some of the hardest material in your body, it’s not immune to breaking or chipping. A broken, cracked or chipped tooth can happen from basic activities like chewing on hard substances, trauma from accidents, sports injuries, biting your nails, or tooth decay.
What can I do if my tooth is chipped or broken?
If a tooth that is broken, chipped or fractured, immediately seek dental care regardless of whether you’re experiencing pain. Any of your teeth can be fractured or chipped, although broken molars commonly occur from deep tooth decay and from using teeth to chew hard substances. It is not advisable to fix a broken tooth at home or using over-the-counter or DIY methods.
A broken or chipped tooth can produce a varying amount of tooth pain, ranging from no pain at all to excruciating. It is important to have a damaged tooth examined and repaired, regardless of pain-level, to prevent the tooth from becoming infected or needing to be extracted entirely.
How to treat pain from a broken tooth
A broken tooth can cause an immense amount of pain, since a large break or crack exposes the nerves at the center of the tooth.
While waiting to see a dentist, you can take the following at-home measures to alleviate discomfort and pain from broken or chipped tooth:
- Alternate acetaminophen and other over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen and continually rinse your mouth with warm salt water
- Prevent sharp or jagged edges from cutting the insides of your mouth by covering them with a piece of wax paraffin or sugarless chewing gum
- Eat only soft foods and avoid biting down on the broken tooth entirely to prevent further damage
- Make an emergency dental appointment for the same day or as soon as possible
How does a dentist repair a chipped or broken tooth?
Your dentist will examine and x-ray the area to determine the extent of the damage. The treatment for a chipped or broken tooth is largely dependent on a case-by-case basis. For example, if only a small piece or corner of the enamel has been fractured, it can generally be repaired with a filling or bond which is usually completed after only one office visit. However, teeth that have sustained severe damage may require more lengthy and costly procedures such as a crown or extraction.
Cracks in the enamel can be repaired using a filling or bonding to repair a small loss of tooth enamel. To bond the fracture or chip, the dental team applies an adhesive material to the tooth, followed by the bonding material, fixes the bonding to resemble the tooth’s natural shape and color, and permanent hardens the bonding using an ultraviolet light.
A dental crown can restore natural-looking shape and function to a tooth that has been weakened by decay or heavy trauma. The dentist will likely grind or file down the remaining part of the tooth and bond the crown atop the broken tooth to protect the nerve. Dental crowns can be made to look almost identical to the original tooth.