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What To Do About Chipped or Cracked Teeth

Posted on September 19th, 2013 by

Your teeth are generally very strong, but they can chip, crack or break in a number of ways:

  • Biting down on something hard
  • Being hit in the face or mouth
  • Falling
  • Cavities weakening the tooth
  • Old fillings being unable to support the remaining enamel of the tooth

Minor cracks in teeth usually don’t hurt, but a large piece breaking off can cause pain if the nerve inside the tooth is damaged. So what can you do? Cracked or Fractured Teeth There is no way to treat a cracked tooth at home – you will have to go into your dentist’s office. The tooth may look fine, but hurt when you eat or the temperature in your mouth changes. If the tooth hurts all the time, it may be a sign of damaged nerves or blood vessels. Broken Teeth If you have broken your tooth, you should go see your dentist as soon as you can. He or she can figure out why the tooth broke and if the nerves are at risk. Damaged nerves with usually require root canal treatment. Do the following until you get to the dentist’s office:

  • Rinse your mouth with warm water.
  • Apply pressure with gauze on any areas that are bleeding until the bleeding stops.
  • Apply a cold pack to the cheek or lips over the broken tooth to reduce pain and swelling.
  • If you can’t get to the dentist right away, cover the part of the tooth that is still in your mouth with temporary dental cement, which can be found at drugstores.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever.

Once you get to the dentist, he or she will analyze the break or chip and decide on the proper treatment.

  • Minor cracks: These surface cracks only affect the enamel and rarely need treatment. Your dentist may polish the area to smooth out the surface.
  • Cracked tooth: This type of fracture involves the whole tooth from the chewing surface down to the nerve. The pieces all remain, but the crack can spread. This can sometimes be fixed with filling material and may need a crown to prevent the crack from getting worse. If any tissues are damaged, a root canal might be needed.
  • Chips: Minor chips don’t always need treatment. Your dentist may just polish and smooth out the area or suggest repairing it with filling material.
  • Broken cusp: These breaks affect the pointed chewing surfaces, known as the cusps and are unlikely to affect nerves or cause pain. Damage can be repaired to restore the shape of the tooth, but it may require an onlay or crown.
  • Serious breaks: These breaks go deep enough to expose the nerve and almost always cause the tooth to hurt and bleed. You will need a root canal treatment to remove the exposed nerve and possibly a crown to restore the tooth’s function so you can eat and chew properly.
  • Split tooth: A split tooth is as it sounds – the tooth has split vertically into two separate parts. The treatment is a 3-part process: first, root canal treatment; second, the dentist will remove any roots that cannot be salvaged; and third, you will need a crown to cover the root and replace the tooth. Some cases may require the tooth to be removed.
  • Vertical breaks or split root: These cracks start at the tooth’s root and extend toward the chewing surface. They are often painful as they can cause inflammation or infection. More often than not, the tooth will have to be removed.
  • Decay-induced break: A cavity can weaken a tooth from the inside out, causing it to break or crumble. Your dentist will evaluate the cavity and recommend the best way to restore the tooth. If the decay is extensive, the tooth may need to be removed.

If you experience a sudden break or crack, come visit us right away. Our experienced dental professionals will decide the best course of action for your individual case.

Courtesy of Colgate

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