Front teeth can break for many reasons. I will try to discuss here some of the most common ones I see in my office
Here is a quick photo of a patient that broke his front tooth. He had a crown on the tooth, but when he bit down on a piece of licorice the tooth broke. This is a particularly difficult situation because there isn't much tooth left to hold a new crown. We ended up having to do a root canal and a post to help retain the new crown. Even after all that, if this lasts 5 years it is a success. For a longer term fix we could have extracted the root and placed an implant or a bridge here. Replacing with a new crown was the least invasive (and least expensive) option at this time. That is what the patient wanted, so we did that.
So what happened here? He bit down and pulled on licorice. When we bite AND PULL on our food (like licorice/candy or even worse JERKY) we put a force on the tooth that isn't in line with it's natural strength. Un-restored teeth can usually handle that kind of force, but a tooth that has been compromised may not be able to withstand the lateral force on the tooth. Anytime a tooth has been fixed (restored) it IS compromised.
Tooth broken off inside crown
Here is a quick photo of a tooth that has broken off inside the crown. Honestly this is a bad situation. These just can't be bonding back on with any sort of predictability. I have patients that ask to "just glue it back on" and we will do that if they ask us to, but we tell them we cannot guarantee how long it will stay on. I think the average amount of time they stay on in these situation is 1-2 weeks. If your crown broke off, and this is what you see, you will most likely need to have the root of the tooth extracted and a bridge or implant.
My tooth didn't have a crown, but it still broke off. I am wondering why?
This patient came to us with these 2 broken teeth. His wife made him come in. He really wasn't too bothered by the appearance.
So what happened here? His tooth was weakened by wear on the back side. Once it was weak (thin) enough a normal amount of force "snapped" the front of this tooth right off.
His wear was from 2 sources.
1. Acid. He has had years and years of acid reflux (often called GERD) that dissolved away the inside of his front teeth. This is very common in men (can occur in women too). Reflux is a silent assassin. Most people have no idea it is destroying their teeth.
2. Grinding his teeth. This patient does grind his teeth. Not as bad as some patients, but when combined with the acid reflux it was devastating.
Fixing this is also very difficult (read a lot of time and money to get back to a nice result). I can't just put a white filling in there, it will require several steps to fix it.