If you have ever had a chipped or broken tooth, then you know that it can be a terribly painful experience.

Even smaller chips or cracks can end in an emergency trip to the Dentist to get things patched up.

While your teeth might be remarkably durable, there is still the chance that a direct enough impact or internal damage can cause damage to your teeth. Some of the most common ways the people break or chip their teeth are:

  • Biting down too hard on something solid.
  • Being hit in the face or the mouth.
  • Falling on your face.
  • Having cavities weaken the enamel structure.
  • Having old, large amalgam fillings that don’t support the remaining tooth enamel.

Depending on the size of the crack or break, you might not even notice it. Your tongue might only feel chipped teeth on the sides as it grazes over them, and cracks and breaks that don’t hit the enamel may not be felt at all. Larger breaks and cracks can open the nerve endings in the dentin (the soft inner part) of your teeth to air and beverages which can cause quite a bit of discomfort and pain.

The pain might be constant, or it might come and go throughout the day, but if it’s there, you need to know what to do about it.

Cracked or Fractured Tooth

If you crack or fracture a tooth there is only one thing you can do about it; See a Dentist. Unfortunately when this type of trauma occurs there’s nothing that anyone untrained can do except make it worse. If you have a temperature sensitivity in one tooth, it’s possible that the enamel has been cracked enough to expose the nerve endings to the open air. While you may not get a constant, throbbing pain, this can still lead to complications later if your tooth should become infected by food or bacteria getting into your dentin and festering.

Broken Tooth

Broken teeth are an immediate and dangerous concern. Contact your dentist ASAP (if you are in the Hartford are and don’t have a dentist, call us now! The number is (860) 421-3909) and get an appointment made for the soonest time. Your dentist will quickly try to establish if the nerve has been damaged, and if so, recommend a root canal. If not, you are going to have to go in and get your face fixed.

If you have broken a tooth, you can get it before you get to your dentist’s office by:

  • Rinsing your mouth well with warm water.
  • Applying pressure with a piece of gauze on any bleeding area for about 10 minutes or until the bleeding stops.
    • If this does not seem to be working, apply a tea bag to the area with slight pressure until the bleeding stops.
  • Using a cold pack on your cheek or lips over the broken tooth. This will help eliminate swelling and should relieve some pain.
  • Take a pain reliever.

What Your Dentist Will Do

The first question is always, “How far does the crack go?” If the answer is “into the dentin,” then you probably are going to have nerve damage that will not be treatable. This is not a hard rule but is correct often enough that it’s worth knowing. This picture should help give you an idea of “how far is too far” when it comes to a crack in your tooth.treatable-vs-nontreatable-fractured-teeth

Depending on exactly what happened the treatment will be different, including:

Minor Cracks

Known as “craze lines,” these surface cracks only affect the hard outer shell of the tooth called the “Enamel.” These cracks rarely need to be treated, but your dentist might lightly polish the area the next time you are there to smooth out any rough spots.

Cracked Tooth

A cracked tooth involves a split through the entire tooth, from enamel down to the root. The pieces may remain in place, but the cracks have the potential to spread gradually, and that’s the real danger. Cracks can sometimes be repaired with filling material, but often the tooth will need a crown to help hold everything in place and prevent the tooth from opening. If there is any tissue or nerve damage, you could require a root canal.


Depending on the size of the chip, you might not need any work done at all. If the chip is big enough, then your dentist might recommend repairing the tooth with filling material to prevent it from getting any worse or make the tooth look and feel more natural. If the chip is smaller, then the dentist might quickly polish and smooth out the affected area.

Broken Cusp

These breaks affect only the “Cusp” or the pointed chewing surface of your tooth. These are rarely known to cause pain, and usually need a crown or onlay to repair the tooth if the break is large enough.

Serious Break

If a break in the tooth goes all the way down the nerve, then you probably know it and are in pain right now. Sensitivity and bleeding usually accompany the pain. A root canal is needed quickly to remove the exposed nerve, and a crown will restore the tooth back to normal form and function.

Split Tooth

A split tooth means that the tooth has divided vertically into two separate parts. Not only are the nerves exposed, but there is probably substantial damage to the tooth and root(s). The tooth will need to be extracted, and if there are multiple roots on the tooth (such as there are with molars), then it may be possible to save an unaffected one. A root canal will remove any damaged roots, and then a crown will be put in place over the root.

It is possible to save a split tooth if the root is not severely damaged, but the tooth will need a crown to hold it together

Vertical Breaks or Split Root

These cracks start at the root and shoot upward toward the enamel. These are often some of the most painful breaks because the area around the nerve may be inflamed or infected. In most cases, the tooth will have to be removed.

Decay-Induced Break

If you have a broken or collapsing tooth due to a cavity or infection, then there may be a way to salvage the tooth and root. Most times, the decay is only felt (through pain when biting or applying pressure, or when cracks form on the surface) when the problem is bad enough that the root is affected. If your tooth has broken because of an internal cavity or infection, it may have to be removed.

Wrap Up

Hopefully, this guide has helped you and gets you on the path to recovery. If you have an emergency, then please call our office or fill you the form on the right. We have a highly trained staff and the latest technology available to us and can help get your smile back in fighting shape in no time!