Even though enamel, a mineral form of calcium phosphate, scores 5 on the Mohs hardness scale—harder than steel—it is also brittle, comparable to glass. As a result, chips, fractures, cracks, and significant breaks, like a tooth broken in half, are not uncommon.  

If severe enough, broken and chipped teeth can cause severe pain and/or cause the loss of the entire tooth, making it important to immediately seek out medical attention. Here is what you need to know about getting a broken tooth repaired and what to expect throughout the entire process.


Common Causes of Broken Teeth

If you’ve experienced or are currently experiencing problems associated with a broken tooth, you might wonder what caused it or how to move forward from it. In many instances, a chipped front tooth is more of a cosmetic inconvenience. However, other situations, like larger breaks, might warrant a severe dental emergency—especially in cases where the damage causes severe pain.

Perhaps the most common cause of tooth damage is decay. Teeth with untreated cavities are much more likely to break and cause a dental emergency. However, instances like chewing on ice or candy or biting down unexpectedly on something hard may also cause damage. In addition, accidental trauma like a fall, being unexpectedly hit in the face, sports injuries, or a car crash may also cause a tooth to break.

Broken teeth also come in a wide range of variations. Chips are small cracks in the tooth and largely cosmetic. While they might not hurt, they are usually very noticeable with your tongue or might cause a minor amount of pain. For most people, having a chip repaired is more for aesthetics than for actual protection of the inner layers of the tooth. However, the true extent of a chip can only be determined after a visit to the dentist.

The most serious type of tooth damage is a break that exposes the dentin or root. Broken teeth usually cause a large amount of pain, which requires immediate treatment by a dentist to help save and restore it appropriately.


What to Do Until You Can See a Dentist

It is important to contact a trusted dentist the moment you notice damage to your tooth. However, sometimes life happens in the most inconvenient times and that isn’t always possible.

If you can’t see a dentist immediately, there are a few things you can do to help minimize pain and prevent further damage:

  • Start by rinsing your mouth with warm water to help reduce the chance of infection.
  • If you’re in a moderate amount of pain, try taking an over-the-counter pain reliever.
  • If you’re bleeding, try applying pressure to the wound with a bit of gauze for about ten minutes. If this doesn’t help, try using a wet tea bag with pressure to try to help stop the flow of blood.
  • Apply a cold pack to the cheek, gums, or other areas to help reduce swelling.
  • Use caution when eating or drinking, especially when it comes to extremely hot or cold foods and beverages.

For instances where it might be a few days before you are able to visit a dentist and it is a significant break, you can also cover the part of the tooth that is broken with dental cement. This is available at your local drugstore.


Treatment Options

There are numerous treatment options available when it comes to broken or chipped teeth. A few of the most common include cosmetic methods, bonding, crowns, or—in extreme cases—a root canal or extraction.

Cosmetic Methods: Depending on the severity of the crack or chip, certain cosmetic methods might be used. This includes options such as cosmetic contouring, where a dentist polishes and cleans up rough edges with special tools.

Bonding: Dental bonding and filling are also options for treating a cracked or broken tooth. In circumstances where bonding isn’t possible, a veneer is sometimes used to cover the surface of the tooth.

Crowns: In some cases, an artificial or partial crown is used to repair a broken tooth. This is where a specially crafted piece is made and then bonded to the natural tooth. It is often the best course of treatment for teeth that are still largely intact but need extra protection against further damage. This is most common with molar teeth versus other types.

Root Canal and Extraction: If damage to the tooth is extensive, like a broken in half tooth that exposes nerves and blood vessels in the pulp, a root canal or extraction might be necessary. This is largely isolated to incidents where the root is damaged or there is a significant amount of infection.


Decay-induced breaks are a little different. These usually require evaluation of the cavity and a plan as to how to deal with the damaged tooth. In many cases, this could require an extraction.

For children with chipped or cracked baby teeth, the tooth will likely need to be extracted and evaluated as the child ages and a permanent tooth appears. Bonding or repair for minor chips and cracks usually isn’t warranted, as baby teeth eventually fall out.

Of course, each of these scenarios requires a very specific set of circumstances surrounding your chip or break. Your dentist will work with you to determine the best option for your unique situation.

For treatment options, treatment times, and effectiveness, for a broken tooth and other common dental complaints, see our helpful table – dental problems and their solutions.


Costs to Repair Broken Teeth

The actual bill associated with any type of dental repair depends on unique circumstances including the severity of the damage, the course of treatment taken, and your individual dental insurance carrier. Those requiring after hours or emergency treatment may also expect to pay a bit more.


How Bunker Hill Dentistry Can Help

At Bunker Hill Dentistry, we take pride in helping our patients with a wide range of dental needs including chipped or broken teeth, including significant breakages. Our staff is skilled in evaluating and treating patients with any type of damage.

Do you have a broken or chipped tooth? Schedule an immediate dental appointment using the appointment form or call 832-834-5281.