How to Relieve Pain From a Cracked or Broken Tooth

A broken or cracked tooth can cause a painful toothache. A break in the tooth enamel can expose the inner pulp of the tooth.

That’s where the tooth’s blood vessels, nerve, and connective tissues are. If that area becomes inflamed or infected, the pain can be excruciating.

This article explains the pain of broken or cracked teeth and ways to manage the pain. It also discusses treatment options for painful broken or cracked teeth.

how to treat a toothache

Verywell / Emily Roberts

First Aid for a Broken Tooth

A cracked or broken tooth requires a dental visit. Your dentist will assess the tooth and try to treat it to prevent further damage.

If you experience pain, it is likely due to the tooth's dentin layer being exposed. The dentin is the tissue underneath the tooth enamel that surrounds the pulp.

What To Do

If you break, crack, or chip a tooth, here is what you should do:

  • Collect any broken pieces to show your dentist. Your dentist cannot reattach the pieces. However, they can determine if the piece was tooth enamel or an old filling.
  • Gently bite down on a fresh piece of gauze if there is bleeding or pain.
  • Call your dentist to make an appointment. Even if the tooth doesn't hurt, you should be seen as soon as possible. Most dentists leave openings in their schedules for dental emergencies.

What Not To Do

As you wait to see a dentist, you want to avoid things that can worsen the pain. Stay away from the following:

  • Very hot or cold food or beverages: Extremes in temperature may cause pain in broken or cracked teeth.
  • Sugary foods and beverages: Sugar may irritate the exposed inner layer of the tooth.
  • Acidic foods and beverages: Acid, like vinegar, citrus fruit, and tomatoes, may irritate the nerve in the tooth.
  • Hard foods: Biting down on nuts, hard candy, or other hard foods can further damage the tooth. If the tooth is only cracked, avoid chewing with the tooth until it is fixed.

These are only temporary measures. Only a dentist or an endodontist (a specialist in treating tooth pain) can repair a damaged dental nerve.

Recap

If you break, chip, or crack a tooth, see a dentist as soon as possible. If the mouth is bleeding or in a lot of pain, gently bite down on gauze. Try to save the broken pieces.

As you wait for an appointment, stick to soft foods that are neither too hot nor too cold. Avoid chewing on the side of the damaged tooth. Also, avoid very hot or very cold beverages and sugary or acidic drinks or food.

Easing Tooth Pain

These temporary remedies can provide some relief until you can see a dentist:

  • Use an over-the-counter (OTC) pain-relief medication like Advil (ibuprofen) or Tylenol (acetaminophen). Avoid aspirin, which can slow blood clotting. This could be a problem if you need a root canal.
  • Floss after eating. Remove any food particles and plaque from between the broken tooth and its neighbors. Plaque is the sticky film that coats teeth and contains bacteria. Be careful not to poke too deeply around the affected tooth.
  • Use oil of cloves (eugenol). You can find oil of cloves in most health food stores. It is a natural anesthetic that has been used in dentistry for over a century. Soak a small piece of cotton in the oil, then blot the cotton on a piece of tissue to remove the excess. Hold the cotton on the painful tooth for 10 seconds. Avoid swallowing the oil.
  • Try an OTC dental anesthetic like Orajel (benzocaine) or Anbesol (lidocaine), which you can find at most pharmacies. You can also seal the affected tooth with an OTC temporary filling material (Dentemp).
  • Sleep with your head elevated. Inflammation of the exposed nerve can cause severe, throbbing pain. This is often what causes the most discomfort. Keeping your head elevated may ease some of the pressure.
  • Rinse with warm salt water two to three times a day. Saltwater works as an antiseptic to remove bacteria from the infected area.

Professional Treatment

Your dentist will determine the best course of action to fix your tooth after they evaluate the damage. The treatment will depend on a few factors:

  • The type of tooth (baby or adult)
  • The tooth's stage of development
  • How the tooth is injured

If there is no pain associated with the tooth injury, your dentist may be able to fix it similar to a filling.

A larger break may require a crown, also known as a tooth cap. This is a hollow metal or porcelain tooth that covers the broken or cracked tooth.

A cracked or broken tooth that's causing pain is likely to need treatment of the dental pulp to treat the pain.

The dental pulp is the center of the tooth and extends all the way to the tip of the tooth's roots. Although the pulp is important during a tooth's growth and development, the tooth can survive without it once it's fully mature.

Treatment of dental pulp or nerve injuries is called a root canal or endodontic treatment.

Prevention

There's no doubt that once you have cracked or broken a tooth, you don't want to have one again. Be aware of the most common causes and do your best to avoid them:

  • Chewing and biting into hard foods, like nuts and hard candies
  • Biting on hard objects, such as a pen cap or pencil
  • Brittle tooth structure caused by root canal therapy
  • Old restorations (such as fillings or crowns) that have begun to separate from the tooth's structure
  • Clenching or grinding of the teeth (a night guard can help)
  • Trauma to the face and mouth

Summary

A broken, chipped, or cracked tooth should be seen by a dentist as soon as possible. If the tooth injury is causing pain, your dentist may be able to get you in the same or the next day.

To ease the pain while you wait to see the dentist, try an OTC pain reliever, saltwater rinse, or OTC teething gel. To prevent additional pain, avoid food and beverages that are too hot, too cold, sugary, or acidic. Try to avoid chewing on that side of the mouth until the tooth is fixed.

Treatment for a broken tooth depends on how extensive the damage is and any pain involved. A small chip may be fixed with a filling, while a bigger break may need a crown or cap.

If a tooth is painful, a root canal will likely be needed. Your dentist will examine your tooth to determine the right treatment for you.

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Article Sources
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