A broken dental crown can be alarming, but it’s no cause for panic. There are several ways to solve the problem, one of which you can even do yourself at home, at least temporarily.

Your options to fix a broken crown include:

  • Bonding the broken crown
  • Recementing the crown (if it’s still intact)
  • Replacing the broken crown with a new crown
  • Replacing a crown with a dental onlay
  • Extracting the tooth and replacing it with a dental implant.

Ultimately, you’ll need to see a dentist to fix a broken crown. But read on to learn more about this relatively common occurrence and what to expect.


How Do Crowns Get Damaged, Anyway?

A crown may get damaged in any of the same ways as a regular tooth, such as…

  • a blow to the face
  • a fall
  • grinding your teeth
  • biting down on something hard
  • plain old normal wear and tear

Although they can last decades depending on where they’re placed in the mouth, crowns are not impervious. Most crowns last 10 or 15 years before needing to be replaced.


How Damaged Is Your Crown?

While it might seem irrelevant, the type of damage to your crown may affect whether it must be repaired or replaced. It may also indicate that other teeth have been damaged in the same event that damaged the crown. 

Crown damage basically falls into one of these categories:

  • Cracked: A major vertical or horizontal crack on a crown should be readily identifiable upon inspection.
  • Hairline fracture: You may not even notice an extremely thin crack until you visit the dentist, and it may be easy to repair. 
  • Chipped: A small or large chunk of the crown has broken off.
  • Broken: The crown may be shattered or in one piece, but it’s falling off and no longer functioning. 


What to Do Before You See a Dentist About a Broken Crown?

A broken crown is typically not a dental emergency, unless it’s left jagged edges on the tooth that could cut your tongue or cheeks. 

Otherwise, you should be able to manage the situation until you’re able to get to the dentist. 

In the meantime, there are a few things you can do:

  1. The first is to assess the damage and determine if the crown is still on or has fallen off, which you can do by looking closely in a mirror. At this time, run your finger along the tooth to check if it does have jagged edges. 
  2. If the crown is not jagged but is not securely attached, you need to pull it off so that you don’t swallow it. (If you think you have swallowed it, it will likely pass without causing any internal problems.) 
  3. Once your examination is over, rinse your mouth with warm water to remove any tiny crown fragments that may be present. At this point you can temporarily reattach the crown if it appears to be intact. 
  4. Before reattaching it, first lightly clean the crown inside and out with a gentle toothpaste and brush to remove any debris or old cement. Next, place a small dab of toothpaste or temporary tooth cement on the crown where it will be reattached and reattach it. It’s very important to fit it correctly so as not to damage the tooth or neighboring teeth. 
  5. Now call the dentist and relay the status of the crown–whether you’ve reattached it or not–and make your appointment to get the crown professionally repaired. 


Your 5 Options for Fixing a Broken Crown

Here’s what your dentist can do to resolve a broken crown:

#1 Dental Bonding

The same method that can be employed to do minor repairs on natural teeth can sometimes also be used to restore a broken dental crown. For example, if there’s only a hairline fracture, bonding could be done as an alternative to replacing the crown. 

Bonding is a fast, painless procedure in which the dentist applies a tooth color-matched composite resin to the crown, molds it to repair the damage, then dries it under a UV light. 

Learn more about bonding.


#2 Replacement Crown

The dentist may determine that the crown is too badly damaged or not worth saving because it was due for replacement soon anyway. In that case, he will first remove the broken crown (if it’s still there) and install a new one.

To remove the old crown, the dentist will start by numbing the gums to limit discomfort. He may also use an adhesive to weaken the cement. 

Then he may either cut a small hole in the crown to provide leverage for breaking the seal of the cement and lift the crown off, or he may cut the crown into sections with a small rotary tool and remove each piece one at a time. 

Next he will clean the tooth to remove debris and decay, or even do a root canal on the tooth if there is significant decay. 

Then using either gummy impression material or a digital scanner, such as the iTero that we use here at Bunker Hill Dentistry, the dentist makes an impression of your teeth for fabricating the new crown. 

Until it is ready, you will be fitted with temporary crowns that are much more easily removed than the broken permanent crown was.


#3 Dental Onlay

Also referred to as a partial crown, a dental onlay may be a viable alternative to a new crown. 

A dental onlay is pre-formed in a lab out of resin, porcelain, or gold, then bonded to the tooth so that it fits within the grooves of the tooth and wraps up over the cusps. 

This method allows for more of the tooth structure to be preserved than is possible with a crown. If you’ve had your crown for a while, you may find the performance of the materials has advanced enough in the last few years for an onlay to suffice, instead of a crown. 


#4 Recement the Crown

If you still have the crown and it’s undamaged, just fallen out, the dentist can also reattach it to your tooth after cleaning it and examining it. 

He would likely need to remove old cement from either your tooth or the old crown, or both, and it would have to be shown via X-ray to still be fitting well with the tooth structure, but if so, this could be a relatively simple option.


#5 Dental Implant

In extreme cases, the crowned tooth may be too decayed or weakened to attach a new crown, in which case the entire tooth needs to be extracted and replaced with an implant. 

This procedure requires anesthesia, either local or general, before the gums receive a small cut to receive the titanium post that’s embedded into the jaw to serve as the tooth root. 

On top of that will be an abutment and the restoration (crown), which looks and chews like a normal tooth. 

Learn more about dental implants.


If you need care for a broken dental crown, please contact us today to schedule an appointment.