Our teeth are tough but not indestructible. Unfortunately, a cracked or chipped tooth can happen at almost any time. And it can be seriously alarming!
This article will give you more information about risk factors for a broken tooth, why it is important to get it treated, and what to look out for to avoid chipping or cracking your teeth.
Breaking a Tooth
When we mention a broken tooth, we are referring to a chip or crack in the enamel of the tooth. The enamel is the hard outer layer of your tooth that protects the softer, more sensitive tissue below. Your tooth enamel is strong, but it can be chipped or cracked under the right circumstances.
There are a couple of factors that can make a broken tooth more likely. However, it is important to remember that anyone can chip or crack a tooth, even if your teeth are very healthy.
- Age: As we age, our teeth (and the enamel protecting them) get worn or decayed and can become more susceptible to breakage.
- Worn Enamel: Worn tooth enamel can mean the outer layer of the teeth is thinner, and therefore a tooth can break more easily.
- Tooth Decay: As decay and cavities occur, the tooth can become weaker and at risk of breaking, cracking, or chipping.
- Large Fillings: Fillings are used to treat cavities in the teeth, and while they are effective and strong, they can compromise the overall structure of the tooth, making it more likely to break.
Dangers of a Broken Tooth
If you feel your tooth break or think you have a chip or crack, it is essential to get treatment. Bacteria can enter the tooth through cracks and permeate into the softer tissue below. Like when you get get a cavity, this can cause an infection or abscess.
Even a small crack can compromise a tooth. And a small crack will often slowly grow in size with pressure and temperature changes, making your tooth more vulnerable.
Causes of Cracked Teeth
The following habits and foods can crack or chip your Teeth. Know these dangers, and avoid them when you can.
Injury from falls or rough contact is a leading cause of cracked or broken teeth. While falls are hard to predict, being vigilant on slippery surfaces (like around a pool) is important. When playing sports, make sure you or your children always wear an appropriate mouthguard or helmet.
Grinding your teeth, also known as bruxism, is another culprit when it comes to chipped or cracked teeth. Friction caused by the grinding motion can weaken teeth over time and eventually cause a fracture. You may habitually grind your teeth during the day, so it is important to be mindful of this practice and work on stopping it.
If you grind your teeth at night, consider a night guard to protect your teeth from breakage. Unsure whether you grind your teeth while you sleep? Ask your dentist at your next appointment. We may be able to look for the signs and help.
Very hard or tough foods can also cause teeth to unexpectedly break. Some of the most common offenders are:
- Hard or Chewy Candies
- Popcorn (especially unpopped kernels)
- Chewing gum or taffy
- Pits (olives, fruits)
- Corn on the Cob
- Hard Bread Crust
- Chewing Non-Food Items (like your pen)
You may not want to avoid all of these foods all of the time; they are delicious, after all! Chew slowly and carefully when you eat – think of it as taking time to enjoy your food – and you will be more likely to avoid damaging your teeth. That said, try not to ever chew ice and non-food items.
What to Do if You Break a Tooth
A broken tooth is not a reason to panic, but you should make an appointment ASAP to assess the damage and get it treated. If you experience significant bleeding, pain, or the break was related to trauma, seek emergency care.
One of the smartest ways to avoid a broken tooth is with good oral hygiene and regular preventative dental care. Call our office to schedule your twice-a-year appointment or any time you think you may have suffered damage to your teeth.