Help! I Have a Broken Tooth

Friday, October 9, 2015
Help! I Have a Broken Tooth

You’ve just broken a tooth. Now what do you do? And how can your dentist help?

Maybe you fell face first into a chair. Perhaps you were chewing on that last, stubborn, unpopped popcorn kernel. Maybe someone elbowed your drinking glass into your mouth at a party. Or possibly your teeth are just showing the wear and tear normal for their age. In any case, now you have a broken tooth, and you’re wondering what to do about it. Luckily, the doctors at Penn Dental Family Practice are here to save the day, and do everything possible to rescue your tooth.

What’s in a tooth?

Your tooth is made up of three layers, the enamel on the outside, the dentin underneath, and the pulp at the center of the tooth. A broken tooth may have cracks only in the outer surface, the enamel, or it may have a fracture that penetrates the entire tooth. Cracks, even microscopic ones, can cause pain when chewing, or when exposed to hot or cold temperatures. The crack, when opened by force or thermal changes, can expose and irritate the nerves in the pulp.

A Bad Break

Your tooth may be severely broken, or it may just be chipped. You’ll need to see a dentist to determine exactly what sort of damage has been done, and what the best course of treatment is. Some ways your tooth might be broken include:

  • Fractured Cusp: This means that the top of the tooth, or crown, is cracked or chipped off.
  • Cracked Tooth: A cracked tooth is fractured from the crown through the center, but does not reach the roots of the tooth.
  • Split Tooth: A split tooth is broken from the crown all the way down to the root, and is in two pieces. A split tooth cannot be saved in its entirety, but your dentist may be able to save part.
  • Root Fracture

This means that your tooth has cracked from the root up, below the gum line.

Treating a Broken Tooth

There are several options for treating a broken tooth, and your dentist will be able to advise you about the possibilities based on x-rays and examination or your tooth’s condition. Your doctor may recommend:

  • Fusion: If part of your tooth has chipped off, but you’ve saved it, the dentist may be able to fuse your tooth back together.
  • Root Canal: Root canals can stabilize, strengthen, and repair a tooth with extensive internal damage. This is a possibility for some individuals with cracked or even split teeth. After a root canal, your dentist will need to put a filling and a crown on your tooth to further strengthen, support, and protect it.
  • Endodontic Surgery: When the crack in your broken tooth affects only the root, you may need endodontic surgery to repair it. There are a variety of procedures that fall under the description of “endodontic surgery.” Your dentist or endodontist can help you decide which is right for your tooth.
  • Extraction: When a tooth is broken too severely, or is left untreated for too long, sometimes the only viable option is to remove it. Your dentist will only recommend this as a final option when other treatments are not possible.

Help! I Need a Dentist!

If you or someone you know has broken a tooth, it is important to get treatment as soon as possible. For more information, or to schedule an appointment with a Penn Dentist, call 215-898-PDFP.