Most everyone in the world at some point or another has suffered with broken teeth. Well, perhaps a broken or cracked tooth. Although many people have lost their teeth throughout their lifetime, all of us, at one time or another, had teeth. As a dentist, much of my life revolves around these little white things in our mouth.
Broken Teeth Are Inconvenient
It’s an important topic, because so many people come into the office with a broken tooth/teeth. No one expects to have a tooth break, but it can happen. And, when it does, its usually an extremely inconvenient time (as if there is a convenient time). Teeth can break due to trauma, prolonged fatigue, extreme force, or lack of structural integrity.
The list may seem long, but in short, a tooth will not break as long as it is strong enough to handle what we throw at it. If you have a perfectly healthy tooth that has never had a filling and you like to eat soft foods all of the time, you will probably never suffer with a broken or cracked tooth.
However, many of us have large fillings; often, silver fillings. Imagine looking straight down on a box/cube. Now imagine drilling a hole into that box/cube. As the hole gets wider and wider and closer to the sides one can begin to appreciate how a large filling undermines the strength of a tooth. This is why your dentist will often recommend a crown once a cavity or filling has reached a certain size.
If a tooth is greater than 70% filling material, it is more at risk for a fracture. As one chews and goes about their normal activity, forces applied to the filling cause the filling to act like a wedge. The result can be broken teeth!
Broken Teeth Often Hurt
Broken teeth are not only inconvenient, but also can be painful. If the break occurs into the dentin (the layer just below the enamel), sensitivity will be felt. If the break occurs into the nerve, it will be much more painful. Sometimes, a root canal may be needed to address the pain and restore the longevity of the tooth.
Common Questions About Broken Teeth
Here are a few of the most common questions you may have if your tooth breaks:
Is a Broken Tooth an Emergency?
Most often, you can wait to be seen by your dentist if you have a cracked tooth. For example, if you bite down on something and part of it breaks off, then you can make an appointment with your dentist to be seen right away. In the meantime rinse your mouth out if you can before you see a dentist. However, if you have been hit in the face or suffered some type of trauma that left shards of the tooth in your gums or your tooth is cutting your tongue, you may need to go to the ER.
Can Broken Teeth Be Fixed?
Depending on how badly the tooth was broken or cracked will determine if the tooth can be fixed. Fillings and bonding can be used to fix minor chips. However, if it has broken in half or a large part of the tooth is missing, other treatment options will need to be explored.
How Does a Dentist Fix a Cracked Tooth?
There are several treatment options for cracked or broken teeth such as veneers, bonding, fillings, crowns, or implants.
Can You Put a Crown on a Broken Tooth?
In order to have a crown placed on your natural tooth, there has to be enough tooth structure left to support it. The tooth will need to be shaped and smoothed down to act as a base for the crown. If there isn’t enough tooth available, it won’t be able to be capped. Other treatment options will need to be used.
What Happens if a Broken Tooth That is Broken Goes Untreated?
Broken teeth that have sharp edges will cut your tongue and cheek, and need to be taken care of right away. You can cover the sharp edges temporarily with gum until you can get in to see the dentist. However, broken teeth that aren’t sharp and don’t seem to be painful when you bite still needs to be evaluated.
What Should I Do If My Tooth Breaks Off?
If your tooth breaks off, you should start by rinsing your mouth with warm water and saltwater. Then, cover the tooth if it has sharp edges.
It will likely be sensitive either way and you will want to avoid chewing on it or allowing liquid to pass over it. Schedule a dental appointment right away to see a dentist.
Should I Brush a Broken/Chipped Tooth?
All of your teeth need to be cleaned to avoid causing more tooth decay. A broken or chipped tooth can be cleaned gently, but depending on whether you have nerves exposed, you may not be able to brush it. Ultimately, when you have a tooth in this condition, you need to get in to see the dentist as soon as possible.
Prevent Broken Teeth With Crowns, Nightguards, And Eating Appropriately.
Although most broken teeth can be restored with a root canal, crown, or cap that will completely encircle the tooth and increase its strength, some breaks render a hopeless prognosis. These situations result in removing the tooth and considering replacement options such as dental implants, bridges, or dentures. As a dental specialist, the best advice I can provide is to prevent broken teeth. Be informed about your dental health. Know if you have large, at-risk fillings. Know your dietary habits. Do you like to chew on ice? Do you like to gnaw on bones? And finally, know if you grind your teeth, particularly at night. If so, use a custom-fit nightguard.
Don’t end up inconvenienced and in tooth pain over broken teeth. Make an appointment to see your dentist. Prevent as much as possible and then treat as soon as a break occurs. And remember, we are here to help……..Jason Roe, DDS, FACP. 972-962-9872