An upper arch with a broken tooth

You are eating a piece of hard candy or chewing on some ice when all of a sudden you realize there is a piece in your mouth that is not melting or dissolving. That is when you come to the sickening conclusion that it is not candy… but it is a piece of a broken tooth.

Biting down on something hard, falling, or taking a blow to the face can cause broken teeth, especially when your tooth already has signs of decay. Do not panic though, there are many things your dentist can do to fix and repair your tooth.

Caring for A Broken or Chipped Tooth

An icon of a sad broken or chipped toothIf you have a broken, fractured, or chipped tooth – you should get to the dentist ASAP. Failing to meet with the dentist can cause further damage or an infection that could possibly even cause you to lose your tooth.

If you are suffering from a chipped or broken tooth – try some of these at-home remedies in the meantime:

  • If you are experiencing pain you can take over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen.
  • Rinse your mouth out with salt-water.
  • If the tooth is causing you discomfort because it has left you with a jagged or sharp edge in your mouth, you can cover the tooth with a piece of sugarless chewing gum to prevent it from cutting the inside of your cheek, lip, or tongue. Wax paraffin is also a great remedy for this.
  • Make sure you avoid biting down on the chipped or broken tooth. Eating soft and liquid foods are your best bet if you must eat.

Tooth repair depends on the damage and how severe the fracture may be. The repair can typically be completed in one office visit if only a little piece of the enamel broke off. However, if the tooth is badly damaged or broken then it may require a more lengthy procedure. We have provided you some ways that your dentist may go about repairing your chipped or broken tooth.

Bonding or Filling

Your dentist may decide to repair the damage with a filling if a small piece of tooth enamel has been chipped off. Bonding is typically done for front teeth or teeth that are shown when you smile. This process uses a resin composite that matches your tooth color.

Numbing is not typically required for a bonding procedure. Here is what to expect:

  1. The dentist uses a liquid or gel on the surface to prepare the bonding material to stick to it.
  2. They apply the bonding material to the broken or chipped tooth.
  3. A tooth-colored resin is then added. A tooth-colored resin is a glass and plastic mixture used to restore chipped, broken, or decayed teeth.
  4. The dentist shapes the bonding material to make the tooth look natural.
  5. Ultraviolet light is then used to make the material harden.

Dental Crown or Cap

Typically if a larger piece of a tooth is broken off or if a lot of decay is present, a crown or cap is recommended. Caps and crowns are created to help improve the appearance of the tooth while also protecting it.

Teeth being supported by a crane

Typically if a larger piece of a tooth is broken off or if a lot of decay is present, a crown or cap is recommended. Caps and crowns are created to help improve the appearance of the tooth while also protecting it.

Permanent crowns are typically made from the following materials including metal, all resin, all-ceramic, or porcelain fused to metal. There are different benefits to each type. Resin or porcelain crowns were made to look like the original tooth, however metal crowns will always be the strongest.

If the entirety of your tooth on the top is broken off, a crown can be made… but only if enough structure is built up underneath it. With the root still intact, your dentist or endodontist can place a post or a pin in the canal through root canal therapy giving the tooth enough structure for a crown. Your dentist can then cement the crown over the post or pin.

Two visits to the dentist are typically needed when getting a crown. Here is what to expect:

First Visit
A dentists chair

  1. Your dentist may need to check the surrounding bone and roots of the tooth by taking X-rays.
  2. If there are not any additional problems then your dentist can start the numbing process.
  3. They will need to make room for the crown by removing enough of the remaining tooth.
  4. If the tooth has a large piece missing, your dentist may decide to fill it first to hold the crown.
  5. Impressions are made of both upper and lower teeth to ensure the crown fits appropriately.
  6. The crown is created by sending these impressions to a lab.
  7. A temporary crown made of thin metal or acrylic is sometimes placed in the meantime.

(Some dentists can make a crown without sending it to a lab if they have the right equipment (ex. CEREC), this eliminates the patient from having to wear a temporary one.)

Second Visit

  1. This typically occurs two to three weeks later.
  2. First comes the removal of the temporary crown.
  3. Then the dentists check the fit of the permanent one.
  4. Finally the dentist permanently cements the crown in place and you are good to go.

Porcelain Veneers

Doctor with patient looking at screen Allthough primarily known as a Cosmetic Dentistry procedure dental Veneers are used to make a tooth look healthy and whole again if the front tooth is chipped or broken. This process is kind of like a fake nail covering a fingernail but with your teeth. A veneer covers the whole front of the tooth to replace the broken part. It consists of resin composite material or a thin shell of porcelain.

Here is what to expect if you are getting veneers:

  • The tooth is first prepared by the dentist removing about 0.3 to 1.2 millimeters of enamel.
  • An impression of the tooth is made and sent to a dental laboratory who makes the veneer. Typically it takes about 2-3 weeks for the veneer to be made in a lab.
  • On your next visit to the dentist after your veneer has been made, your dentist will roughen the surface by etching the tooth with a liquid.
  • A special cement is then applied to the veneer then placed on the prepared tooth.
  • A special light is used to cure the cement and make it harden.

Root Canal Treatment

Icon showing a tooth's root system If your tooth is broken or chipped enough to expose the pulp, a root canal intends to eliminate infection and protect the tooth. The pulp is considered the center of the tooth which houses nerves and blood vessels. You can typically tell if the pulp has an infection or is damaged because of the pain, it changes color, or is heat sensitive. If the tooth becomes infected and you fail to treat it, you may need to extract it. A root canal treatment will clean the root canal, remove the dead pulp, and reseal it.

This treatment is generally performed by general dentists or endodontists and is similar to the pain of having a cavity filled. Typically post root canal, dentists use a crown to cover the weakened tooth.

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