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Chipped or Broken Tooth: Causes, Symptoms & Repair

Whether it’s a chipped front tooth that has left you feeling self-conscious, or a broken wisdom tooth that’s causing you pain, no one wants to live with damaged teeth.

Thankfully, a chipped or broken tooth typically isn’t a serious issue and can be easily fixed if acted on quickly.1 Read on to learn more about some potential causes of chipped and broken teeth, how to tell if your tooth is damaged, and ways to repair a chipped or broken tooth.

WHAT CAUSES A CHIPPED OR BROKEN TOOTH?

There are many reasons you might end up with a chipped or broken tooth – whether by accident or because of a more serious dental health condition. Some of the most common causes of tooth damage include:

  • Biting down on something hard. You may have been unfortunate enough to lose a tiny piece of your tooth when crunching down on something solid. The most common culprits of this kind of tooth damage are hard foods like boiled sweets, fruit stones, ice cubes or bones.2
  • Teeth grinding (bruxism). People who grind their teeth usually do so while sleeping, or when experiencing stress or anxiety. Grinding your teeth together can put severe pressure on them and may lead to worn-down or broken teeth.2,3
  • Injury. A chipped or broken tooth can be the result of a direct blow to the mouth, chin or jaw.2
  • Gum disease. If gum disease has progressed to the point of bone loss (severe periodontitis), your teeth could be more prone to root fractures2,4

WHAT DOES A CHIPPED TOOTH OR BROKEN TOOTH FEEL LIKE?

Depending on how badly you’ve chipped or broken your tooth, the signs and symptoms of broken teeth can vary. More often than not, however, a broken tooth will be painful when you bite down on it. It may also become sensitive to hot or cold foods and beverages, causing pain or discomfort when eating things with extreme temperatures – like ice cream or hot soup.
This is because chips or cracks in the tooth enamel (the hard, white outer layer of your tooth) can expose the nerves and blood vessels in the pulp (the inner soft tissue of your teeth) underneath, leading to increased tooth pain and sensitivity.2,5 Learn more about what causes tooth sensitivity.
If left untreated, your chipped or broken tooth may begin to cause pain even when you’re not chewing, since deep cracks can eventually lead to a pulp tissue infection, which may affect the bone and gums near the broken tooth.5

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HOW TO REPAIR A BROKEN TOOTH

Of course, none of us want to walk around with a chipped front tooth or a painful broken tooth. The good news is that a dentist will usually be able to repair a chipped or broken tooth quite easily.1 The sooner you repair a broken tooth, the better, so be sure to visit your dentist as soon as possible once you realise your tooth has been damaged. Unfortunately, once a crack in your tooth has extended below the gum line, it can’t be repaired, and will have to be extracted (removed) instead.5
Some of the ways your dentist can fix a broken tooth or tooth chipping are:1,2,6

  • Dental glue. If you only have a chipped tooth, repair can be very simple. Your dentist may be able to glue the chipped-off fragment of your tooth back on.
  • Bonding. Also perfect for a chipped front tooth, bonding refers to the use of plastic resin to fill a small crack or chip, and can help restore the shape of the tooth.
  • Veneers. A veneer is a thin layer of porcelain or plastic that is fitted over the front surface of the tooth.
  • A filling or crown. Fillings are made from a mixture of different metals and can repair holes in a chipped or broken tooth, while a crown is a small cap that completely covers a damaged tooth.
  • Root canal. If the pulp in the broken tooth has become infected, root canal can be used to remove the infection. Your dentist will then still need to fix a filling or crown to the affected tooth.

HOW TO HELP A BROKEN TOOTH AT HOME

If you’ve sustained some damage to your smile, you may be wondering how to fix a broken tooth at home, rather than having to wait until you can see a dentist. Of course, sometimes we can’t get a dentist appointment straight away and may need to make do at home for a short while.
For these instances, temporary at-home tooth repair kits are available from some pharmacies and online. These kits can be helpful if you have been left with a sharp edge on a chipped tooth, or a broken tooth that is causing you pain – but they may not be suitable for all tooth damage.7 This should keep any sharp edges on your chipped tooth from catching on your lips or tongue until you can get in to see your dentist.
It’s important to note that these home fixes should only be used as a short-term solution and should not replace professional treatment. If you have chipped or broken your tooth, make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible.

In the meantime, ensure that you’re brushing twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste that helps to strengthen teeth and protect against cavities – like Sensodyne. Discover the full Sensodyne range today.

Sources: Clicking any of the links below takes you to an external website that is independently operated and not managed by GSK. GSK assumes no responsibility for the content on the website. If you do not wish to leave this website, do not click on the links below.

  1. Chipped, broken or cracked tooth. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/chipped-broken-or-cracked-tooth/. Accessed 02/07/20.
  2. Cracked teeth. Oral Health Foundation. https://www.dentalhealth.org/cracked-teeth. Accessed 02/07/20.
  3. Teeth grinding (bruxism). NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/teeth-grinding/. Accessed 02/07/20.
  4. Oral health and bone disease. NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center. https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/oral-health/oral-health-and-bone-disease#b. Accessed 02/07/20.
  5. Cracked teeth. American Association of Endodontists. https://www.aae.org/patients/dental-symptoms/cracked-teeth/. Accessed 02/07/20.
  6. Dental treatments. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/dental-treatments/. Accessed 02/07/20.
  7. Cracked, Broken and Chipped Tooth Repair, Treatment and Pain Relief. Dentaly.Org UK. https://www.dentaly.org/en/chipped-tooth-repair/#Can_you_repair_a_chipped_tooth_at_home. Accessed 02/07/20.