How Serious is a Broken Tooth?

Broken tooth

Breaking a tooth may seem like a big deal because of what it can do to your smile’s appearance. However, a broken tooth can also hurt your oral health quickly, as this dental injury can actually lead to losing your tooth permanently. That is why you want to get dental care right away when you sustain a broken tooth. Find out how this dental emergency commonly happens, what tooth decay has to do with it and the first steps to take if you break a tooth!

How Teeth Get Broken…Usually

So you broke your tooth. . . .Some reasons for broken teeth are obvious like with an injury or sports accident, but other breaks may seem more mysterious. Here are some other common reasons that teeth can break:

  • Cavities and tooth decay. Keep up on your biannual dental checkups and cleanings so decay can be found early and the strength of your tooth can remain intact.
  • Weak teeth from your diet. Acids can not only cause cavities, but because of the minerals they leach from your teeth, the teeth are thinner, weaker and can break.
  • Crooked teeth or bite problems. Your teeth and jaws should line up evenly on top of one another. When the teeth are crooked or your bite is off, uneven pressure is placed on different teeth. When patients don’t receive orthodontic correction, that uneven pressure can eventually cause a broken tooth, which can happen suddenly.
  • Biting or chewing on non-food items. Don’t ever bite, chew or open packages with your teeth. Chewing on pencils, ripping with your teeth and other similar habits can cause a broken tooth.
  • Injuries and sports. Most dental emergencies involving a broken tooth happen with contact sports. Always wear a mouthguard if you play any contact sport or one with equipment that can hit the face (like a ball). If not, you’re at risk for a broken tooth.

Remember, taking the steps to prevent your teeth from breaking is the best way to safeguard your smile!

Types of Broken Teeth Injuries

Understanding what kind of broken tooth injury you have is the first step to identifying what treatment protocol you should follow. When you chip or break a tooth, the severity of the injury is classified in one of several categories:

  • Chipped Tooth. Treatment for a chipped tooth depends on the size of the chip. Small chips can be polished and smoothed. Larger chips may need to be filled with a tooth-colored resin so it is not visible to the naked eye. Chipped teeth that are causing you pain or sensitivity to hot/cold usually indicate that a nerve has been exposed or affected and will need immediate treatment.
  • Craze Line Break. Minor cracks that only affect your tooth enamel. Most of these cracks can be corrected with polishing and don’t require restorative work.
  • Cusp Break. The cusp of your tooth is the pointed surface you use to chew your food. Cusp breaks need immediate treatment so that they don’t worsen and affect the root of the tooth.
  • Severe Break. This type of break will expose the nerve of the tooth–a very painful type of dental injury. These injuries usually require a root canal treatment and dental crown.
  • Vertical Split. A tooth that has split vertically into two segments is called a vertical split break and normally requires root canal treatment to fix with a porcelain crown. If at least one root is not saved, you will have to have the tooth extracted.
  • Split Root (vertical break). This is one of the most painful kinds of fractures, starting in the tooth root and stretching upward to the chewing surface.

Call Dr. Niles for help with determining which kind of tooth break you are dealing with so that you can take the proper steps and save the life of the tooth!

How Broken Teeth Open the Way for Decay

You don’t want to ignore a broken tooth. Aside from pain, a broken tooth poses the threat of serious infection if left to fester. A broken tooth is like a broken wound that is open to bacteria to enter at will. Infections can become serious threatening the tooth, adjacent teeth, and your whole body if the infection enters the bloodstream.

What to Do If You Break a Tooth

When a tooth has been chipped, rinse your mouth with warm water. If there is any bleeding present, press a piece of gauze to the area and apply pressure. If you can’t see Dr. Niles  or a dental professional the same day you chipped your tooth, cover the chipped tooth with dental cement (available at most drugstores) to protect the remaining tooth until your appointment. Recover any broken tooth fragments that you can, then seek treatment as soon as you can.

A break can be fixed with dental fillings, crowns, or even a new tooth if dental help isn’t sought. With any tooth break, keep the tooth fragments in water or milk and don’t handle them more than necessary. Bring them to the dental office with you.

Call to Schedule a Smile Consultation Today

If you are struggling with a broken tooth, let us help you restore your smile and your oral health.  Not doing anything could trigger tooth loss and other associated problems. A complete smile also boosts your confidence and how you interact with others. Dr. Niles is a family dentist in Niwot, Colorado, with convenient access to the communities of Boulder, Longmont, Lafayette, and Louisville.  Niles Family Dentistry offers state-of-the-art family dentistry and cosmetic dentistry.  Call for your appointment today at (720) 744-0001. We look forward to meeting you and your family!


Ashley Niles

Leave Comment