Cracked or Broken Tooth Pain Relief

How to relieve pain at home until you can get to a dentist

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A broken or cracked tooth can cause a painful toothache. A break in the tooth enamel can expose the inner pulp of the tooth, which is where its blood vessels, nerve, and connective tissues are. If that area becomes inflamed or infected, the pain can be excruciating.

Instant pain relief from a broken tooth may not be possible since the injury requires medical care to stop the pulp exposure. If you need to wait to see a dentist, there are things you can do at home to ease discomfort.

This article explains cracked tooth pain, how to manage pain at home, what you can expect when you see the dentist, and how to prevent getting a broken tooth in the first place.

how to treat a toothache

Verywell / Emily Roberts

Emergency First Aid

When a tooth cracks, it may expose the dentin layer, the middle layer of tissue underneath the tooth enamel. This leaves you susceptible to infection and makes teeth sensitive to pain and temperature.

To protect your tooth and your overall health, you should take some steps immediately if you break, crack, or chip a tooth:

  • 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 see a dentist as soon as possible. Most dentists leave openings in their schedules for dental emergencies.
  • Apply an OTC temporary seal (Dentemp) to help protect the tooth until your dentist appointment.

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

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: Extreme temperatures may cause broken or cracked teeth pain.
  • Sugary foods and drinks: Sugar may irritate the exposed inner layer of the tooth.
  • Acidic foods and drinks: 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.

At-Home Pain Management

In addition to protecting yourself from infection or further injury, you may need to deal with a significant degree of pain. These temporary at-home treatments can help you deal with the discomfort until your dentist can provide more long-term care.

  • Use an OTC pain-relief medication such as 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 clove oil 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. You can put Orajel (benzocaine) on a broken tooth or try Anbesol (lidocaine). These are available 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.

Medical 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 more extensive break may require a crown, also known as a tooth cap. This hollow metal or porcelain tooth covers the broken or cracked tooth.

If your broken or chipped tooth is painful, treatment of the dental pulp is usually necessary. The dental pulp is the center of the tooth and extends to the tip of the tooth's roots. Although the pulp is vital during a tooth's growth and development, it can survive without it once it fully matures.

Treating dental pulp or nerve injuries is called a root canal or endodontic treatment. After treatment, your cracked tooth should stop hurting in a few days.

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 chipped or 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. A root canal may be needed for more severe injuries.

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7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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