Tooth Root Fragments Left Behind in Gums: What You Need to Know

Dealing with a Broken Tooth Root in Your Gums

Breaking a tooth can be a painful and traumatic experience. Even worse is when the tooth breaks so that a piece of the root is left behind in the gum tissue. If you don't fix this broken fragment, it can cause discomfort, infection, and other dental problems. Fortunately, there are good options for removing broken tooth roots and restoring your smile.

If you suspect you have a cracked tooth, it is important to consult your dentist as soon as possible. They will assess the extent of the crack and recommend the most suitable treatment option to restore your dental health.

Type of Cracked ToothTreatment
Craze linesNo treatment required, unless for cosmetic purposes
Fractured cuspRepair with a dental filling or crown
Cracked toothRoot canal treatment, dental crown, or extraction depending on the severity
Split toothExtraction or possible tooth segment removal and replacement with a dental implant or bridge
Vertical root fractureExtraction or specialized dental treatment depending on the location and extent of the fracture

What Causes a Tooth Root to Break?

There are a few potential causes for a tooth root becoming cracked or broken:

  • Tooth decay weakens teeth and increases the risk of fractures. As the decay reaches the inner pulp and root, it creates vulnerabilities that can lead to splits or breaks in the source when pressure is applied.
  • Trauma - A forceful blow to the face from an injury or accident can cause teeth roots to crack or fragment. Sports injuries, bike and car collisions, and falls are familiar sources of dental trauma.
  • Grinding - When you grind your teeth aggressively, it puts a lot of pressure on them. This can stress or split the roots of your teeth over time. The constant compression wears down enamel and dentin, diminishing tooth structure.
  • Poor dental work, like rough root canals or faulty fillings, can create small defects in tooth roots that eventually cause breaks.

Signs You Have a Broken Tooth Root

Some key signs that indicate a tooth root is broken and embedded in your gums include:

  • Visible cracks or chips - You may see cracks, fractures, or missing chunks on the visible part of the tooth at the gumline or above.
  • Tooth pain - Moderate to severe tooth pain when eating or drinking hot, cold, or sweet foods often signals a broken root. The exposed inner pulp becomes aggravated.
  • If your gums hurt, swell, or bleed, it might mean an irritated root fragment.
  • Tooth discoloration - A tooth with a broken root may change color and become darkened or grayish as the inner pulp dies.
  • If you feel pain from hot or cold, even without decay, a broken root might be the cause.
  • Loose tooth - A fractured root can mean reduced structural support for the tooth, allowing it to loosen or shift position.

Dental X-rays Confirm the Broken Root

If you think you have a broken tooth root, you may have signs and symptoms. But to confirm the diagnosis, you need dental x-rays. Dentists will take X-rays from different angles to visualize the location and size of any broken root fragments hiding under the gums. Advanced 3D cone beam CT scans offer detailed imaging for mapping embedded root pieces.

Possible Complications from a Broken Tooth Root

Leaving a broken tooth root fragment in place can lead to some unwanted outcomes:

  • Infection - Bacteria can enter via the exposed inner pulp and cause infection at the root tip, known as an abscess. The pus buildup results in throbbing pain.
  • Cysts - An infected broken root may trigger a cyst to form, which is a benign sac filled with fluid. Cysts create a bump on the gums that can damage nearby teeth.
  • Bone loss - The inflammation from a broken root can kickstart gum disease, destroying the bony sockets and tissue around teeth.
  • Decay can spread quickly if a broken root exposes new surfaces to acid and bacteria, worsening existing cavities.
  • Tooth loss - Ultimately, an untreated broken root can make the tooth so unstable it has to be extracted.

Removing Broken Tooth Root Fragments

Removing embedded broken tooth roots is important. It prevents issues and restores oral health. Here are some possible treatment approaches:

  • If the tooth can still be saved, the dentist may do a root canal. This involves cleaning the inner pulp, disinfecting the area, and filling the remaining root or roots.
  • Extraction - Often, the affected tooth with the broken root has too much damage and needs to be gently extracted. This is done under local anesthetic.
  • Root fragment removal - The dentist will surgically access the broken root piece and carefully remove it from the bone and gum tissue. Stitches may be placed to close the site.
  • If a lot of bone is lost due to infection, grafting material can be put in the socket to help it grow back.
  • Dental implant - An artificial tooth root made of titanium can replace the missing tooth root and support a crown or bridge. This option provides a stable restoration.

Recovering from Broken Tooth Root Removal

Expect some tenderness, swelling, and numbness after procedures to take out broken root segments. Here are tips for comfortably recovering:

  • Take any prescribed pain relievers as directed by your dentist.
  • Apply ice packs to the outside of your cheek for 10 minutes at a time to reduce swelling.
  • Eat soft, lukewarm foods for a few days until the surgery site starts to heal.
  • Avoid spitting, drinking with a straw, or other actions that create suction in your mouth.
  • Gently rinse your mouth with a saltwater solution to keep the area clean.
  • Rest as much as possible and limit strenuous activities that could disturb the clotting.

Full healing can take several weeks to months, depending on whether grafts or implants were involved. Be diligent about follow-up appointments and dental hygiene to ensure proper recovery. Report any worrisome symptoms to your dentist right away.

Restoring Your Smile After Losing a Tooth

Losing a tooth is upsetting, but modern dentistry offers great solutions for tooth replacement. Some options for restoration include:

A dental implant is an artificial titanium root and crown that looks and works like a natural tooth. It functions just like a real tooth. A bridge is a false tooth that is bonded between two crowns on neighboring teeth. It fills the gap between the teeth. A partial denture is a removable plate made of acrylic with fake teeth. It attaches to nearby teeth and replaces missing teeth. A full denture is a removable set of replacement teeth for either the upper or lower jaw. It replaces all missing teeth.

Your dentist will advise you on the optimal tooth replacement strategy based on your needs, budget, and oral health status. With proper dental care, your smile can look beautiful again after a broken root extraction.

Preventing Future Broken Tooth Roots

While sometimes unavoidable, you can reduce the likelihood of tooth fractures and broken roots by:

  • Brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and flossing once daily
  • Seeing your dentist for exams and cleanings every 6 months
  • Wearing a mouthguard during sports if you play contact sports
  • Getting dental injuries treated urgently to minimize damage
  • Avoiding chewing hard items like ice or popcorn kernels
  • Managing teeth grinding with a night guard from your dentist
  • Replacing old metal amalgam fillings that could crack teeth

Taking care of your teeth and fixing small issues early can make them stronger and less likely to break. Report any chips or cracks to your dentist right away before they worsen.


Dealing with a broken tooth root embedded in the gums can be troublesome and painful. Modern dental techniques can remove damaged root fragments and restore your smile. If you think your roots are broken, get treatment quickly to prevent infections and losing teeth. With appropriate care, you can maintain your oral health and have confidence in your smile again.


What causes a tooth to break with the root still in the gums?

A tooth can break with the root still in the gums due to factors such as tooth decay, trauma, bacterial infection, or cracks in the tooth structure.

What are the signs and symptoms of a broken tooth root in the gums?

Signs and symptoms of a broken tooth root in the gums may include increased tooth sensitivity, persistent toothache, and discoloration of the affected tooth, often appearing black or brown.

When should I seek immediate treatment for a broken tooth with the root still in the gums?

It is important to seek immediate dental care for a broken tooth with the root still in the gums, especially if you experience severe tooth pain or swelling. If the break occurs outside of regular office hours, you may need to visit the nearest emergency room or find a dentist who can provide timely treatment.

What are the treatment options for a broken tooth with the root still in the gums?

Treatment options for a broken tooth with the root still in the gums depend on the severity of the breakage and the overall condition of the tooth. Options may include tooth extraction, dental bridges, implants, dentures, root canal therapy, and dental crowns.

How can I prevent broken tooth roots in the gums?

To prevent broken tooth roots in the gums, it is important to maintain good oral hygiene practices, such as regular dental visits, daily brushing and flossing, and limiting the consumption of sugary foods and drinks. Taking precautions to protect the teeth from trauma, such as wearing a mouthguard during physical activities, is also essential.

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