CHIPPED OR BROKEN TOOTH
Teeth are remarkably strong, but they can chip, crack (fracture) or break. A chipped or broken tooth can happen in several ways:
- Biting down on something hard
- Being hit in the face or mouth
- Having cavities that weaken the tooth
- Having large, old amalgam fillings that don’t support the remaining enamel of the tooth
A chipped or broken tooth may not hurt. However, your tongue usually feels the sharp area. Minor tooth fractures usually don’t cause pain, but if a large piece of the tooth breaks off, it can hurt.
The nerve inside the tooth may be damaged. Extreme discomfort also can happen when nerve endings in the dentin are exposed to air, or to hot or cold foods or drinks.
Pain from a broken or cracked tooth may be constant or may come and go. Many people feel pain when they chew because chewing puts pressure on the tooth. If you have a chipped or broken tooth, what should you do?
CRACKED TEETH -WHAT TO DO
There is no way to treat a cracked tooth at home. You need to come see us. Sometimes the tooth looks fine, but it hurts when you eat or when you drink something hot or cold. If your tooth hurts all the time, it may have a damaged nerve or blood vessels. This is a serious warning sign. You will know if you have a cracked tooth if it does not hurt to bite on the tooth, but pain occurs when you release the bite.
BROKEN TEETH – WHAT TO DO UNTIL YOU CAN GET TO US
If you have a broken tooth, see us as soon as possible. We can figure out if the break was caused by a cavity, and if the tooth’s nerve is in danger. A damaged nerve usually will require root canal therapy. Until you can get to us, here are a few things you can do:
- Rinse with warm water.
- Apply pressure with a piece of gauze on any bleeding areas for about 10 minutes or until the bleeding stops.
- Apply a cold pack to the cheek or lips over the broken tooth to help reduce swelling and relieve pain.
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever.
WHAT WE WILL DO
There are several types of tooth fractures and breaks, each of which requires different treatments. These include:
- MINOR CRACKS – ALSO CALLED “CRAZE LINES”
- CRACKED TOOTH
- CHIPPED TOOTH
- BROKEN CUSP
- SERIOUS BREKS
- SPLIT TOOTH
- VERTICAL BREAKS OR SPLIT ROOT
- DECAY INDUCED BREAK
- MINOR CRACKS —Also called “craze lines,” are surface cracks that affect only the enamel or outer white surface of the tooth. Minor cracks rarely need treatment beyond a light polish to smooth out any rough spots.
- CRACKED TOOTH — A fracture involving the whole tooth, from the chewing surface all the way down to the nerve. The pieces remain in place, but the crack gradually spreads. Cracks can sometimes be repaired with filling material. The tooth often will need a crown to prevent the crack from getting worse. If the pulp (nerve and other live tissues) is damaged, you may need a root canal as well.
- CHIPS — Minor chips don’t always need treatment. We may repair the damage with filling material to prevent it from getting worse or to make the tooth look and feel better. If the chip is very small, we may just polish and smooth out the chipped area.
- BROKEN CUSP — These breaks affect the pointed chewing surfaces (the cusps) of the teeth. They usually do not affect the pulp and are unlikely to cause much pain. Most of the time, treatment is an onlay or a porcelain crown.
- SERIOUS BREAKS — These breaks go deep enough to expose the nerve. They almost always cause tooth pain and sensitivity. Usually, the broken part of the tooth will bleed. Treatment consists of root canal therapy to remove the exposed nerve and a porcelain crown to restore the tooth to normal function so you can eat and chew properly.
- SPLIT TOOTH — This means that the tooth has split vertically into two separate parts. Some teeth, such as your back teeth (molars), have more than one root. It may be possible to keep one of the roots, but root canal therapy will be needed to remove the roots that can’t be kept, then the tooth will be covered with a porcelain crown. In some cases, when a root cannot be saved, the tooth will have to be removed.
- VERTICAL BREAKS OR SPLIT ROOTS —These cracks start in the root of the tooth and extend upward toward the chewing surface. They are often painful because the area around the root may be inflamed or infected. In most cases, the tooth will have to be removed.
- DECAY-INDUCED BREAK — In this case, the tooth has broken or crumbled because a cavity weakened it from the inside out. We will evaluate the cavity and recommend the best way to restore the tooth. In some cases, if the decay is extensive and goes down to the bone,the tooth may have to be removed.
For a chipped or broken tooth where tooth removal is the best course of action, rest assured that we will go over all options with you; including dental implants or another oral prosthetic.
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