What You Need to Know When You Have a Broken or Cracked Tooth

Dealing With Dental Emergencies

basketball player with cracked tooth
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A broken or cracked tooth can occur for a number of reasons. 

Common Causes of a Cracked or Broken Tooth

There are several potential causes of a cracked or broken tooth. Some of these common causes include: 

  • Chewing and biting into hard food
  • Biting on hard objects, such as a pen cap or pencil
  • Brittle tooth structure caused by root canal therapy
  • Old restorations that have begun to separate from the tooth's structure
  • Clenching or grinding of the teeth
  • Trauma to the face and mouth

When a tooth breaks or cracks, there is a good chance that the nerve of the tooth will be exposed. The one exception is when that tooth has already had root canal performed on it, as the root is removed during the procedure. An exposed nerve is hyper-sensitive to temperature, especially cold, and may cause pain and discomfort if not treated immediately.

What to Do After a Tooth is Cracked or Broken 

Gently bite down on a fresh piece of gauze, and avoid eating or drinking cold foods and beverages until the tooth has been repaired by your dentist (which should be as soon as you can get an appointment).

If only part of the tooth has broken off, you may wish to collect the broken piece and take it with you when you see the dentist. Even though she will not be able to use the broken piece of tooth to restore it, she may want to see if the piece that broke was enamel or part of a filling.

When a tooth cracks and the entire tooth remains in the mouth, avoid eating or biting down on the tooth. A cracked tooth may or may not involve the root, so every effort to avoid contact with the tooth should be made in order to prevent the tooth from cracking further and potentially causing a root fracture.

See your dentist as soon as possible in order to prevent further damage from occurring to the tooth and gum tissues.

What to Do If You Can't See a Dentist Right Away 

If you have a broken or cracked tooth and you are unable to see your dentist immediately, here are some ways for you to relieve the pain from a toothache caused by a broken or cracked tooth on your own: 

  • Avoid foods and beverages that are very cold or very hot
  • Avoid foods and beverages that are very high in sugar, or are very acidic
  • Use an over-the-counter pain relief medicine


The American Dental Association. Do You Have a Cracked Tooth?  Accessed: July 19, 2010

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