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A broken tooth, also known as a tooth fracture, is when a tooth's hard shell (enamel) breaks or cracks.
A dentist or endodontist can diagnose a fractured tooth through a clinical examination and radiography (X-rays).
Tooth fractures are performed by general dentists daily and happen more frequently in mandibular molars (back teeth). They occur more often in patients over 40 years old and affect women more often than men.
While a broken tooth may not always require immediate attention, it's best to treat it as soon as possible. If the damaged tooth is left too long without treatment, the crack can deepen, and the tooth might fall out.
After suffering a broken tooth, here are the steps you can take to reduce additional damage before going to the dentist:
These solutions are temporary. They do not address the more serious issues that could lead to infection, tooth loss, or other oral health conditions.
Remember that not every chip or crack is severe enough to require treatment. Some are quite common (like craze lines). These are small cracks that develop in the tooth enamel. They are typically harmless.
However, if the tooth is causing pain, call your dentist. This could indicate a more serious problem.
A broken tooth is a dental emergency if you experience:
If these symptoms are present, you should immediately go to an emergency dentist.
In cases involving dental trauma, a severe impact can break the jaw. If you cannot bring your upper and lower teeth together when closing the mouth, see a dentist immediately or go to the emergency room.
If there is no pain or bleeding and the tooth has only sustained a small amount of damage to the enamel, you can wait a day or so as long as you practice proper oral hygiene.
Treatment for a broken tooth will depend on the size and location of the crack or break.
Here are the seven most common dental procedures used to repair a broken tooth:
If the tooth’s crack extends below the gum line, the tooth cannot be saved and will need to be extracted (removed).
Extraction is usually the only option when the crack is vertical, below the gum line, involves the roots, and when pieces are mobile.
After the tooth is extracted, a dental implant is surgically inserted into the jawbone. After the site heals, a crown, bridge, or denture is attached.
A dentist can repair the damage with a dental filling if only a small piece of enamel has chipped off.
Dental fillings can be made of a white composite resin or silver amalgam (mercury mixed with silver, tin, zinc, and copper).
Fillings close the hole and restore tooth function. If a tooth is missing a large portion, a dental inlay can replace the missing part of the tooth. This restoration is often stronger and more durable than a dental filling.
If the chip is on the front tooth or visible when smiling, the dentist will likely use a bonding technique. When bonding the tooth, the dentist uses ultraviolet light to bond a tooth-colored composite resin to the tooth's surface.
If the tooth's damage is only a small chip, a dentist can correct the issue by reshaping the tooth or smoothing and polishing the affected area.
Tooth reshaping removes small amounts of enamel from the tooth's surface. When done correctly, the procedure can improve the tooth's appearance and make it more symmetrical.
Dental veneers may be recommended if the chip is small and only causes cosmetic damage.
A dental veneer is a layer of porcelain or composite resin covering a natural tooth. It can make a broken frontal tooth appear whole and healthy again if placed over a broken frontal tooth.
To apply a veneer, the dentist will first remove enamel from the tooth's surface. Then they will make impressions and send them to a dental laboratory. After the veneer is made, the dentist will place it over the tooth at a later appointment.
A large fracture involving multiple tooth cusps may require a crown. A crown is a cover or "cap" that fits over the damaged tooth's remainder. If the chip exposes the dentin or the pulp, bacteria in the mouth could infect the pulp. A root canal may be necessary if the pulp is irreversibly damaged and dying.
A root canal involves removing the pulp and replacing it with a plastic filling called gutta-percha. After the root canal procedure, a dentist will place a crown to protect the tooth.
While the crown is being prepared, the dentist can patch the chipped tooth or place a temporary crown to protect the tooth until the permanent crown is ready.
A dentist may use a dental onlay on molars that have lost a significant portion of their substance or have a large crack.
Dental onlays, like crowns or veneers, are made of porcelain or zirconia ceramics. These are created in a lab.
A tooth splint may be a possible solution for a cracked tooth if there is damage to the surrounding bones and gums. It can bond a damaged tooth to an adjacent healthy tooth. This procedure allows the bones and gums around the teeth to recover from trauma.
Depending on the break's severity, the cost to fix a broken tooth varies from $300 to $2,000 without insurance.
In some cases, fixing a broken tooth can cost up to $10,000 without insurance when extensive work, including extraction, an implant, and a crown, is needed.
Insurance will cover the cost of medically necessary treatments, but the coverage depends on the plan. Most plans usually cover 50% to 80% of the procedure's costs. Remember to ask your insurance provider about coverage before scheduling an appointment.
A broken tooth can be a serious issue that requires professional attention. You must visit your dentist immediately if your broken tooth is causing you pain.
Failure to seek professional treatment for a broken tooth can lead to different oral health conditions. These include tooth decay and infection.
Various treatments for broken teeth are available, and they usually range from $300 to $2,000 without insurance. You may also consider at-home remedies to address the problem temporarily.
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