Do You Have a Broken Tooth?

Close-up view of a person's mouth with a broken tooth.

A broken tooth is a dental emergency that you want to seek help for immediately. When a patient sustains a broken tooth, they are at risk for losing that tooth permanently without swipt intervention. Contact sports and physical activities put you at the most risk for a broken tooth, but this dental emergency can even happen from the foods you eat and your oral hygiene habits. Let us show you what to do if you sustain a broken tooth!


How Strong Are Your Teeth?

Both bones and teeth are made of the same type of minerals such as calcium and phosphate. However, the density of these two body parts are different. Your bones are actually filled with cartilage, which is a sponge-like structure that nourishes them. Your bones are also filled with blood vessels, stem cells and other cells that help build tissues in your body.


Your teeth, on the other hand, are made up of of about 96% mineral content. This makes them strong enough to sustain up to 250 pounds of pressure in one bite on average! Your teeth are covered in a hard, white substance that you know as tooth enamel. The crown of the tooth is the part you can see out of your gum line. The rest of your tooth goes down deep into the gums, secured into your jawbones.


A close-up view of a person who has broken a tooth due to tooth decay.

Layers of Your Teeth

Your outer tooth enamel is incredibly hard because of its mineral content, which is why your teeth are able to bite, chew and chop hard foods without breaking. That hard tooth enamel makes up much of your tooth crown. Inside that enamel layer is another layer called the dentin. Essentially, your dentin layer covers and protects your entire tooth in its socket, and the tooth enamel layer is the very hard helmet over the tooth.


Even though your dentin is mostly composed of mineral content, there are small porous areas in this layer that makes it less strong than your tooth enamel. Inside the dentin layer is your last tooth layer, which is the tooth pulp. This is where blood vessels and nerves for your tooth lie and the area that nourishes the rest of your tooth. This is also the area where infection can happen if you have tooth decay.


Strong Teeth or Weak Teeth?

Many people believe they are doing well with eating, drinking and keeping their teeth clean, when they may not actually be following the guidelines for healthy teeth. For example, studies show that about 48% of people drink soda every day, several glasses a day. Soda contains acids (like carbonic acid that makes carbonation). That acid slowly takes off the minerals on your teeth, making your tooth enamel thinner and weaker. Citric drinks and fruits have the same effect as carbonation in soda and sparkling water.


This erosion of tooth enamel also happens with sugar. When you eat, sugars in your food mix with your mouth bacteria to create plaque. That plaque is acidic, and it sticks to your teeth, eroding them. The longer plaque stays on your teeth, the quicker they will decay. That is how tooth enamel wears away and how the enamel starts to decay, then the dentin, and soon you have a toothache from decay and infection. Due to that weakening from tooth decay (cavities), you can easily sustain a broken tooth. If you have not bitten down on a non-food item or sustained an injury to the face, we will suspect tooth decay if you get a broken tooth.


A patient getting dental help in a dental office.

A Broken Tooth Can Happen Suddenly

Cavities can cause a broken tooth to happen. However, if you keep up on your biannual dental checkups and cleanings, we can take dental x-rays to detect areas of decay. When decay is found early, you won’t end up with a broken tooth because we can fix tiny decay pockets before they grow. Besides cavities, you can get a broken tooth from:

  • Weak teeth from your diet. Acids can not only cause cavities, but because of the minerals they leach from your teeth, the teeth are thinner, weaker and can break.
  • Crooked teeth or bite problems. Your teeth and jaws should line up evenly on top of one another. When the teeth are crooked or your bite is off, uneven pressure is placed on different teeth. When patients don’t receive orthodontic correction, that uneven pressure can eventually cause a broken tooth, which can happen suddenly.
  • Biting or chewing on non-food items. Don’t ever bite, chew or open packages with your teeth. Chewing on pencils, ripping with your teeth and other similar habits can cause a broken tooth.
  • Injuries and sports. Most dental emergencies involving a broken tooth happen with contact sports. Always wear a mouthguard if you play any contact sport or one with equipment that can hit the face (like a ball). If not, you’re at risk for a broken tooth.


What To Do

You have a broken tooth. Now what? When you break a tooth, seek immediate dental help if you want a chance at saving your tooth. Call us immediately—even if it is a weekend—as there is always a dentist on call to help. Rinse the area of your broken tooth with warm water and put a cold compress over that area of your face to reduce swelling. Collect any broken tooth fragments you can find and keep them in a cup of water or milk. Don’t handle tooth fragments more than necessary. Bring the tooth fragments into your emergency dental appointment, and we will do all that we can to bond your tooth back together.


In cases where decay or injury is severe, a tooth extraction or implant may be necessary. However, you raise your risk for restoring your natural tooth if you get help right away. If you sustain a broken tooth or think you have any sort of symptoms of pain or sensitivity, call Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies at (970) 223-8425!