Broken Tooth? Here’s What You Need to Do:

There are numerous ways that your teeth can be damaged, whether it’s a random accident, a hard hit at roller derby, or neglectful dental care. Thankfully, your teeth and smile are not beyond repair.

 

roller derby knocked out teeth

Photo by gt8073a via Flickr.

Why do teeth crack or break?

Although the enamel covering your teeth is the strongest tissue on your body, it’s not totally invincible. A traumatic blow or crash can easily cause a tooth to crack. Or something as normal as chewing on a pencil or even biting your fingernails can cause serious damage. And playing an intense sport like football without a mouthguard can also put teeth at serious risk for breakage..

Cavities or tooth erosion can weaken your teeth, making them more susceptible to break when chewing hard food. The American Dental Association stated that the top foods that cause damage to teeth are coffee, citrus, ice, hard candies, soda, potato chips, alcohol, dried fruit, and sports drinks.

Symptoms of a Cracked Tooth

  • erratic pain when chewing

  • pain when exposed to extreme temperatures

  • throbbing pain that comes and goes

Broken or Cracked Teeth

Cracked or broken teeth are serious injuries that can’t be treated at home. You need to see your dentist in order to mend the broken tooth or teeth. Here are the different types of fractured teeth:

Cracked Teeth

The damage to cracked or fractured teeth are not always visible. You will, however, definitely notice the pain. A constant toothache is a sign of a damaged nerve or blood vessel. Sometimes, it won’t hurt when you bite down on the tooth, but you’ll feel the pain once you release the bite.

Broken Teeth

Whether it’s caused by tooth decay or an accident, it’s best to see your dentist as soon as possible if you have a broken tooth. If the break damaged a nerve, you may need a root canal treatment.

Types of Broken or Cracked Teeth

  • Craze lines
    Also called minor cracks, these are cracks that affect the enamel, which is the outer white surface of the tooth. Often times, they are shallow and cause no pain. And dentist may need only to polish the area to smooth out the rough spots.

  • Chips
    Minor chips will don’t usually require treatment either. They don’t cause pain, so chips are not a cause for concern other than they way that they look.

  • Cracked tooth
    The fracture affects the whole tooth, from the enamel to the nerve. Early diagnosis and treatment is crucial for saving the tooth. Without treatment, the crack gradually spreads and worsens beyond repair.

  • Serious Breaks
    This type of break almost always causes tooth sensitivity and aches because it’s deep enough to expose the nerve. Often times, The broken part of the tooth will bleed.

  • Split Tooth
    This type of break occurs when the tooth has split vertically into separate parts. This is often the result of a long-term cracked tooth.

  • Broken Cusp
    This occurs when the cusped, pointed chewing surfaces of teeth are broken. A broken cusp doesn't always cause much pain because it doesn’t affect the pulp.

  • Decay-induced Break
    When a cavity weakens a tooth from the inside out, it can lead to a broken tooth.

  • Vertical Root Fracture
    These cracks begin at the root of the tooth and extend up towards the chewing surface. If they become infected, the area around the root will be inflamed and cause pain.

What You Can Do

As soon as your have a broken or fractured tooth, you should see your dentist as soon as possible. In the meantime, WebMD recommends a few things you can do to relieve the pain and reduce swelling:

  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt water.

  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, like acetaminophen.

  • To prevent a sharp or jagged edge from cutting your tongue or mouth, cover the broken tooth with a piece of wax paraffin or sugar-free chewing gum.

  • If you need to eat, stick to soft foods and avoid using your broken tooth to chew.

Dental Filling and Bonding

With minor fractures, your tooth may need only a filling to be repaired. For front teeth, a dentist will use a tooth-colored composite resin to repair teeth, called bonding.

Because it is such a simple procedure, bonding doesn’t usually require the numbing of the tooth. First, the dentist roughens the tooth and then adds the adhesive. Then, they’ll apply the bonding material, shaping it to look like a natural tooth. Last, the dentist will use an ultraviolet light to harden the material.

Root Canal

A root canal is necessary when the crack in a tooth extends into the pulp. If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, swelling, or a toothache, you are likely in need of a root canal. This treatment involves removing the nerve and decayed tooth matter. Then, the root canal is cleaned and sealed. If necessary, a crown will be added. Without immediate treatment, it can cause the infection to spread and lead to other serious health problems.

Dental Veneers

Dental veneers are usually used for damaged front teeth, as this treatment provides the most realistic and attractive results. A veneer is a resin composite material or tooth-colored porcelain material that is placed on the whole front of the tooth, transforming the tooth’s appearance. A thicker section is applied to replace the fractured part of the tooth. Another benefit is that they can last up to 30 years, so you won’t need them replaced regularly.

To prepare your teeth for veneers, your dentist will remove some of the tooth enamel so it won’t look bulky. Then, impressions of the tooth will be taken and sent to a dental lab to make your veneer, which will take a couple of weeks. Once ready, the surface of teeth must be etched and roughed with liquid. The veneer is placed on the tooth using a special cement, and your dentist will use a special light to activate the chemicals and harden it.

Dental Implant

If you’re tooth cannot be saved, you may need to have a dental implant. A fractured tooth can’t be treated once the crack extends below the gum line. In this case, the entire tooth must be extracted. Then, you can receive your dental implant to take the place of your missing tooth. This procedure often takes several months as it requires your bone to heal around the titanium frame or post. Once complete, dental implants act as roots for an artificial tooth, securely placed in your jawbone.

Dental Crown

Crowns are a common form of restorative treatment for fractured or broken teeth. Permanent crowns can be made of a variety of materials each with their own benefits: porcelain, ceramic, metal, porcelain fused to metal, or resin. If the root of the tooth is still intact after breakage, your dentist may need to perform a root canal and build up the structure before adding a dental crown.

A dental crown procedure usually only takes a couple of visits to the dentist’s office. First, they may take an x-ray to examine the surrounding bone and roots. If there are no issues found, the dentist will numb the tooth area, remove some of the remaining tooth, and prepare the area for a crown. You may also need a filling to build up the tooth if there are large chips or breaks in the tooth. Then, an impression of your tooth will be made along with the opposing tooth you use to bite down. This will be sent to a lab where the crown will be made, which can take about 2-3 weeks. Once ready, you’ll have your second appointment where your dentist can permanently cement your new crown in place.

How to Prevent Tooth Fractures

Here are a few ways that the American Association of Endodontists recommend keeping your teeth safe from chips, breaks, and fractures:

  • Don’t chew on hard objects. Things like unpopped popcorn kernels and ice put a lot of pressure on your teeth, which can sometimes lead to breakage. Bad habits like chewing on pencils or pens can also be harmful.

  • Protect your teeth during contact sports. Be sure to wear a mouthguard or protective mask.

  • Don’t grind or clench your teeth. If this is something you do when you sleep, talk to your dentist about getting a retainer or mouth guard to protect your teeth.

Unfortunately, a broken or fractured tooth is not something that will simply heal on its own. If you need to have your tooth fixed but can’t afford the procedure, you should consider getting a discount dental plan to help cover a portion of the costs.

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