Why Did a Piece of My Tooth Break Off

It is not uncommon for patients to experience a broken tooth at some point in their life. Our teeth take a lot of daily abuse and if they are not well cared for, a chip or crack can end up in a broken tooth! Any number of factors can lead to a broken tooth including age, grinding your teeth (bruxism), accident or trauma, or dental decay. When a piece of a tooth actually breaks off, you may experience pain, sensitivity to hot, cold, sugar, and even swelling in the gum tissue surrounding the affected tooth. No one anticipates chipping or breaking a tooth but it can happen to anyone, though it is more common in children and older adults.

Why did a piece of my tooth break off?

When a tooth fractures, a crack appears on the surface of the tooth; fractures can be minor and easily fixed or more severe, requiring more invasive treatment. When a crack in a tooth is larger and left untreated, it can eventually cause your tooth to split and possibly break off. No matter the size of a crack in your tooth, you should see your dentist as soon as possible to prevent further damage.

Causes of a fractured tooth may include:
* Chewing on hard foods, like popcorn kernels, nuts, and chewing ice
* Bruxism
* Experiencing a fall or other accident or trauma such as a car or bicycle accident
* Root canal or large, old dental fillings; root canal therapy leads to brittleness over time
* Normal wear and tear can eventually cause teeth to be more susceptible to fracture

What treatments are available to fix a broken tooth?

When you see your dentist for a fracture or break, they will examine the area and likely take an x-ray to see if any fractures are visible below the gumline or if any underlying bone loss could be causing problems for you. Vertical fractures can irritate the gum tissue so they will make note of your gum health and look for fracture lines on the surface of your tooth. They may ask you to bite down on a stick or instrument to see if that causes a negative reaction.

Depending on the severity of the fracture, common treatments for a broken tooth include:

* Contouring: Minor chips can be smoothed to prevent any rough edges from irritating your tongue or cheek.
* Root canal therapy: When a broken tooth is severe, it may be possible to save the tooth by removing the damaged pulp inside the tooth. This will get you out of pain and remove any infection before placing a restoration.
* Composite bonding: The same material used for filling a cavity can also be used to repair small chips and fractures in the teeth.
* Crown: A porcelain crown can be placed over the tooth to ensure structural integrity and prevent further damage. Crowns are often used in conjunction with root canal therapy.
* Extraction: If a tooth is damaged beyond repair, the tooth may need to come out and be replaced with a bridge or dental implant.

A small chip or crack can quickly turn into something more serious so it is important to have it treated right away! If you feel a chip or think you have cracked a tooth, see your dentist as soon as possible.

Broken Tooth and Infection