Why did a piece of my tooth fall off?

What is a fractured tooth?

A fractured tooth happens when a crack appears in your tooth. Some cracks are small and mostly harmless, but others can be large and cause a tooth to break or split. A cracked or fractured tooth can occur because of age and wear, bruxism (tooth grinding), injury, or other reasons. Symptoms may include pain, sensitivity to heat or cold, and inflammation. Fractures are most common in young and old patients but can happen to anyone. When a tooth is fractured it is imperative to consult a dentist as soon as it is discovered.

Tooth fractures can affect different parts of the tooth. The treatment will vary depending on the severity and location of the fracture.


What causes a tooth to crack?

There are many reasons for a tooth to fracture. Age is a frequent cause, with many tooth cracks occurring at age 50 or above. Bad habits of chewing ice or eating hard or chewy candy can also lead to fractures. Bruxism, or grinding the teeth, and having large dental fillings or root canals can also weaken the teeth. Finally, traumatic injuries to the face or mouth can also cause cracks or fractures.

The most common teeth susceptible to fracture are the upper front (incisors) and lower back (molars). Usually when a crack occurs it is confined to a single tooth, but some events or impacts may lead to multiple fractures across several teeth. Teeth with cavities or dental fillings are at higher risk of fracturing.

Tooth decay is another factor in fractures. When a tooth is damaged at any of the layers (enamel, dentin, or pulp) it is more susceptible to cracking or breaking. Oftentimes a damaged tooth will be weaker and therefore will be less able to withstand trauma that would not fracture an otherwise healthy tooth.


Types of tooth fractures

Dentists typically classify fractures into one of the following types:

  • Cracked tooth: a vertical crack running from the biting surface of the tooth to the gum line, sometimes beyond to the root
  • Craze lines (hairline cracks): small surface-level cracks in the enamel
  • Fractured cusp: a crack formed around a dental filling
  • Split tooth: a crack extending from the surface of the tooth to below the gum line, splitting the tooth into two parts
  • Vertical root fracture: a crack originating at the root and traveling toward the biting surface, these fractures are often susceptible to infection

How to prevent tooth fractures

While it is impossible to prevent every tooth fracture, there are some steps to take to reduce the risk of cracking a tooth. These include general maintenance and good dental habits. Avoiding hard or especially chewy foods such as candy, popcorn, and ice will help to minimize the risk of breaking a tooth. Maintaining good dental hygiene through regular brushing and flossing is also essential. If bruxism is a concern, your dentist can help you by making a night guard, or a mouth guard if you play sports. Finally, seeing a dentist for regular checkups and cleanings will help to prevent tooth injury.

Broken Tooth and Infection