Published: May 11, 2018

It can happen suddenly one day. Maybe you bite down into a hard piece of food and you immediately hear a crack. Usually what follows is intense pain, because your tooth just cracked, or even broke into two or more pieces. It’s not always serious or painful, but it’s actually quite common: Around 25 percent of people surveyed had damaged at least one of their adult teeth by the age of 12. While a cracked or broken tooth may seem like the end of the world, with the help of an expert team of dentists, your smile will be back to normal in no time.

Smiles Family Dental has a record of experience helping patients with chipped, broken, and fractured teeth. Learn more about what do when this happens to you, and if we can help, feel free to book an appointment today at one of our three convenient Central Texas locations.

How and why do teeth break?

Broken and cracked teeth are fairly common, simply because it’s easy to damage one or more teeth over the course of a lifetime. Look at it this way: The average human bite can exert as much as 168 lbs. of force every time. When you chew, you’re essentially mashing two bones (your teeth) together, and if they are brittle or weak at all, there’s a potential for damage. If you have tooth decay, this can weaken or even kill the nerves inside the tooth, making it far easier to sustain cracks or breaks with normal use. Here are some other common ways to break teeth:

  • Biting down with force on a hard food or other substance
  • A hit to the mouth or face
  • An accidental fall during which your face/teeth contact the floor or a solid object
  • Old molars that no longer support the teeth

Different types of broken teeth

Not all breaks are created equal, which is why the instructions for how to handle different types of damage to your smile may be different in the short term.

The most minor broken tooth is a chipped tooth. This occurs when a (typically very small) part of the tooth is damaged and breaks off completely. Most chipped teeth are superficial, meaning they may not demand immediate dental attention.

A fractured tooth or cracked tooth occurs when force causes a tooth to form a crack, either on the exterior or through the tooth. An exterior crack (a crack that is only in the enamel) can usually be polished smooth by a dentist without any lasting pain; a deeper crack demands urgent dental care.

When you have a broken tooth, it means that a larger part of your tooth has broken off completely or that the tooth has shattered. This is, like it sounds, the most serious form of tooth damage and demands immediate dental attention.

You can usually trust the amount of pain you’re experiencing to self-diagnose tooth damage. A minor chip will only produce little to no pain. A fracture shouldn’t hurt all the time, but if chewing or applying any type of force causes pain, the fracture is probably deep enough to require dental care. A fully broken tooth will cause intense, near-constant pain because the dentin and nerve endings of the tooth are exposed to oxygen.

How to treat broken or cracked teeth

When you damage a tooth, it’s recommended to visit your dentist, no matter how major or minor you think it may be. Even a small chip may need to be smoothed or filled, based on your dentist’s recommendation.

For broken teeth, schedule an emergency dental appointment. While you’re waiting, you can manage pain in the following ways:

  • Rinse your mouth well with warm saltwater.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medication, but ensure your dentist is aware of any prescription or nonprescription use before any procedure.
  • Apply gauze to stop bleeding.
  • Apply a cold compress to the area of the face where the tooth damage occurred to prevent further swelling.

An expert dentist can help fix broken teeth and cracked teeth in a variety of different ways, depending on the specific circumstances of the damage.

For minor cracks and chips, your dentist may choose to leave your tooth alone, or smooth it out for cosmetic purposes; however, worse chips may need to be filled to prevent further damage.

More serious breaks and cracks frequently need to be removed and replaced with a dental crown or a completely new (false) tooth. In those rare occasions when breaks occur to molars, a root canal is required to prevent infection.

The bottom line

While relatively common, cracked teeth and broken teeth are fairly serious and complicated, highlighting the need for treatment by an experienced dental professional. The team at Smiles Family Dental has repaired countless damaged teeth for patients like you in the Dallas–Fort Worth area. If you have a broken or cracked tooth, call to make an appointment at one of our locations in Flower Mound, Arlington, or Las Colinas.