Does mouthwash help cracked tooth?

A cracked tooth can be very painful and concerning. The crack allows bacteria to enter the inner layers of the tooth, which can lead to infection and abscess. With the pain, many people look for home remedies to provide relief until they can see a dentist. One common question is whether mouthwash helps relieve pain and treat infection related to a cracked tooth.

What Causes Cracked Teeth?

A tooth can crack for various reasons:

  • Chewing on hard objects like ice or hard candy
  • Trauma or injury to the face that impacts the teeth
  • Grinding or clenching teeth, which puts pressure on the teeth
  • Large fillings that weaken the tooth structure
  • Tooth decay that compromises the tooth enamel

Cracks can range from minor to severe. Small cracks may only affect the outer enamel layer of the tooth. More serious cracks extend down through the dentin and even the pulp which contains the nerve and blood vessels.

Symptoms of a Cracked Tooth

Symptoms of a cracked tooth may include:

  • Pain when chewing or biting down
  • Pain that comes and goes
  • Pain when eating hot, cold, or sweet foods
  • Pain when releasing a bite
  • Sensitivity to temperature changes
  • A chipped or broken piece of enamel

The pain is often severe and sharp when the cracked tooth is aggravated. But it can disappear once the pressure is relieved. With deeper cracks, you may feel lingering pain even after releasing pressure on the tooth.

Dangers of Cracked Teeth

While a cracked tooth may seem like a minor surface issue at first, cracks can quickly worsen if left untreated. Bacteria, saliva, and food debris can seep into the crack and infect the inner tooth layers. This can lead to:

  • Pulpitis – inflammation and infection of the tooth pulp
  • Abscess – a pocket of pus and infection at the tooth root
  • Lost tooth vitality – death of the tooth pulp
  • Tooth loss – if the crack is so severe the tooth cannot be saved

An untreated infected cracked tooth that becomes abscessed is very painful. The infection puts pressure on the tooth and can even spread to the jaw and other teeth. Seeking dental treatment as soon as possible is critical.

Treating a Cracked Tooth

The treatment required for a cracked tooth depends on the severity and location of the crack:

  • Bonding – For small cracks confined to the outer enamel, bonding material can be applied to stabilize the crack and prevent further damage.
  • Crown – For deeper cracks extending into the dentin, a dental crown caps and protects the entire tooth from further cracking.
  • Root Canal – If the crack extends into the pulp and the tooth pulp becomes infected or necrotic, a root canal will be required to clean out the infected pulp and save the tooth.
  • Extraction – In cases of a severe crack resulting in a split tooth or vertical root fracture, extraction of the tooth may be required.

The prognosis depends on how quickly the crack is treated. Early intervention leads to better chances of saving the tooth.

Can Mouthwash Help a Cracked Tooth?

Until you can have the cracked tooth properly restored or treated by a dentist, are there any home remedies that can provide relief? What about using mouthwash?

Here’s a look at whether mouthwash can be beneficial for a cracked tooth:

Pain Relief

Most over-the-counter mouthwashes contain antibacterial ingredients like cetylpyridinium chloride, essential oils, chlorhexidine, or hydrogen peroxide. These ingredients can help kill some of the bacteria getting into the cracked tooth and temporarily relieve any pain and infection. Mouthwash can provide a soothing rinse and cleaner oral environment while you wait for dental treatment.

Preventing Bacterial Growth

The antibacterial ingredients in mouthwash can help prevent further bacterial growth in the area by reducing the overall bacteria load in the mouth. This may buy some time against infection setting in and slow the progression of the crack before you’re able to see a dentist.

Improved Oral Hygiene

Using mouthwash regularly can improve oral hygiene which may also combat some of the bacteria getting into the cracked tooth. Good oral hygiene will help limit food debris buildup and reduce contamination. Proper brushing and flossing around the cracked tooth when possible is also recommended.

Limitations of Mouthwash

While mouthwash can provide some benefits, it has significant limitations in treating a cracked tooth:

  • Mouthwash cannot treat the underlying crack itself or permanently stop sensitivity.
  • Over time, bacteria can become resistant to mouthwash antibacterials.
  • If the pulp is infected or necrotic, mouthwash cannot treat that or an abscess.
  • For severe cracks, mouthwash can only temporarily manage pain but cannot prevent eventual extraction.

Mouthwash should not be used as a substitute for immediate dental treatment of the cracked tooth. At best, it can assist in managing temporary pain and infection until a dental appointment can be made.

Are Certain Mouthwashes Better Than Others?

Not all mouthwashes are the same when it comes to managing a cracked tooth. Here are some tips on choosing an effective mouthwash:

  • Opt for antibacterial formulations containing cetylpyridinium chloride or chlorhexidine.
  • Peroxide-based rinses may provide extra antibacterial action.
  • Avoid alcohol-containing mouthwashes as they can sting and irritate the cracked tooth.
  • Look for ADA approval as a seal of an effective antibacterial mouthwash.
  • Ask your dentist if they recommend a particular mouthwash.

A rinse like Cepacol Antibacterial Max Strength or ACT Total Care with chlorhexidine may provide more robust antibacterial coverage. Always follow label directions carefully when using mouthwash.

Other Home Remedies for Cracked Teeth

In addition to mouthwash, you may want to try these other home remedies to get temporary relief from a cracked tooth until you can see a dentist:

  • Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers – An oral analgesic like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help ease the pain.
  • Oral Anesthetic Gel – Products like Orajel can numb and soothe pain from temperature changes or pressure.
  • Cold Compress – Applying an ice pack wrapped in a cloth to the outside of your cheek can minimze swelling and inflammation.
  • Soft Diet – Stick to soft, lukewarm foods to avoid aggravating the cracked tooth.
  • Salt Water Rinse – Swishing with a warm salt water rinse can help keep the area clean.

Avoid putting off dental treatment for long. These remedies only provide temporary relief and do not fix the underlying tooth crack or infection spreading within the tooth.

When to See a Dentist Immediately

You should make an emergency dental appointment right away if you experience:

  • Moderate to severe tooth pain or swelling
  • Pain that keeps you awake at night
  • Tooth pain radiating to your jaw, ear, or head
  • Fever, chills, or inflammation spreading to nearby teeth
  • Visible swelling around the tooth
  • Bleeding from around the tooth

These are signs you may have a tooth abscess or infection advancing rapidly. Prompt dental treatment is essential to drain any abscess, treat infection, and remedy the cracked tooth.

Dentist Treatments for Cracked Teeth

Depending on the location, severity and extent of the crack, your dentist will recommend appropriate treatment. This may include:


For minor cracks confined to the enamel, dental bonding may be applied to seal the crack. The dentist etches the enamel then applies a composite resin material. They mold and harden it with a blue curing light. The resin fills in the crack and bonds to the tooth for stabilization.


With more severe cracks extending into the dentin, a crown is usually required to prevent the crack from worsening. The dentist may reduce the tooth size slightly to allow full crown coverage. Impressions are taken to fabricate a permanent crown which is later cemented into place over the entire tooth.

Root Canal

If the crack reaches down to the pulp, the pulp often becomes contaminated and infected. To save the tooth, a root canal is needed. The dentist drills into the tooth and pulp chamber. They remove all the pulp tissue and nerve and clean/shape the interior root canals. The tooth is then sealed with a rubber filling. Later, a crown is placed.


In cases of an extensive crack from trauma, the tooth may be split completely in two or have a vertical root fracture. This severe damage often cannot be repaired, requiring tooth extraction. The dentist numbs the area, loosens the tooth, and uses instruments to carefully extract it. The space can later be filled with a dental implant or bridge.


It’s critical to follow your dentist’s at-home care instructions after treatment of a cracked tooth. Proper oral hygiene and avoiding chewing hard foods can prevent re-cracking and help your treated tooth heal and restore properly. Schedule regular dental checkups to monitor for any cracks or damage recurring.

Preventing Cracked Teeth

To avoid cracked tooth problems, aim to protect your tooth enamel and prevent damage. Recommendations include:

  • Wear a mouthguard if playing sports or an occlusal night guard if you grind teeth.
  • Avoid chewing on pens, nails, or hard foods like ice, nuts, and hard candy.
  • Get dental work like large fillings or crowns treated early to prevent cracking from decay.
  • Don’t bite or tear open packages with your teeth.
  • Have your dentist evaluate any jaw pain or discomfort from an uneven bite.
  • Get dental cleanings every 6 months to keep teeth free of plaque and tartar.
  • Wear a seatbelt properly to protect your face and teeth during a car accident.

Proper dental hygiene and being careful with your teeth can prevent unnecessary cracking and damage.


While mouthwash should not replace prompt dental treatment, it can offer some temporary relief in a cracked tooth situation until you can see a dentist. The antibacterial ingredients help reduce oral bacteria levels, providing minor pain relief and potentially slowing infection setting into the cracked tooth. Peroxide and chlorhexidine mouthwashes are most effective choices. However, mouthwash reaches only the tooth surfaces and cannot fix the underlying tooth crack or fully stop disease progression. Seeking dental treatment as soon as possible is critical, as a cracked tooth will only worsen without professional intervention. With early treatment, most cracked teeth can be restored and saved. Be sure to take preventive steps to protect your teeth from unnecessary cracks and damage as well.

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