Many people take their teeth for granted. In general, our teeth are naturally strong and are made to serve us for a lifetime. With a little care, teeth also provide us with a healthy smile. Unfortunately, there are situations where our teeth can become cracked or broken. Accidents and trauma are the leading causes of cracked teeth, while age or even hard foods can result in tooth damage that must be treated by a dental professional. Neglect in oral health, such as cavities that decay the inner part of the tooth, may also contribute to cracking or breaking of teeth. In this article, we will discuss several treatment options for fractured or broken teeth.
Information on Cracked or Broken Teeth
In cases of accident or trauma, one or more teeth may become damaged. Cracked teeth can have superficial hairline cracks in their enamel surfaces, or the crack may go deeper into the second layer known as dentin, exposing the tender pulp and nerves inside the tooth. Superficial cracks or chips in the enamel layer may not exhibit any symptoms, but deep cracks may result in severe discomfort, as the nerve is exposed.
A condition called Cracked Tooth Syndrome is when a small crack forms in the tooth due to trauma. The crack itself may not be visible to casual observation or even by x-rays, but the crack goes into the second (dentin) layer of the tooth. When pressure is applied, such as during chewing, pain may be experienced. Such cracked teeth may also be sensitive to hot or cold. Pain is typically a shooting sensation after pressure is applied to the cracked tooth; sometimes the pain lingers long after pressure is relieved. This can be a very difficult condition to diagnose, even for experienced dental professionals.
Treatment Options for Cracked or Broken Teeth
Depending on the severity of the tooth crack, dentists have many options when it comes to treatment. Superficial cracks may require the placement of a crown to protect the tooth from further damage. Chipped enamel layers may be repaired with a veneer or a protective cured acrylic surfacing procedure. Other minor cracks may simply require continued observation; the dentist will carefully check the area during routine cleanings and checkups and move toward treatment if the condition worsens.
More severe cases may require aggressive treatment. In teeth where the pulp and the tooth nerve is exposed, the dentist typically performs a root canal to save the remaining structure of the tooth. A root canal is a process where the tooth’s pulp is hollowed out using specialized instruments. The remaining tooth is then protected by a crown. Root canals are indicated if the pulp becomes infected with bacteria due to a deep crack. Root canals are generally completed in one or two visits, and the dentist uses topical anaesthesia to reduce discomfort during the procedure.
In teeth that have broken, or where the decay is severe, a tooth extraction may be warranted. Typically, the dentist will replace the lost tooth with a tooth implant.
Regular Checkups Save Teeth
By visiting your family dentist regularly, any potential cracks or chips can be addressed. The dentist will typically take routine x-rays of the teeth to help identify cracks or broken teeth. If you should experience a trauma to the mouth, it is a good idea to see your dentist as soon as possible. Shooting pains or sudden hot- or cold-sensitivity may indicate a cracked tooth – it is critical to get dental help right away. With early detection, the dentist can save the remaining tooth structure with specialized treatment procedures.