Anyone who has ever had a tooth crack or break knows the sinking feeling that follows because it almost certainly means an urgent trip to the dentist.
While the enamel on your teeth is the hardest substance in your body, according to the Cleveland Clinic, it is not invincible and sometimes cracks or breaks. The severity of the situation depends on several factors, including which part of the tooth is broken. Here are some important facts that will help you know exactly what to do if you break or crack a tooth.
What is a broken tooth?
While this question may seem obvious, there is more to your teeth than meets the eye. Your teeth are made up of two parts, the crown (above the gums) and the root (below the gums), according to the Cleveland Clinic. They also have three layers: the enamel (the hard white outer layer); the dentin (the middle layer); and the pulp, which contains blood vessels and nerves.
What may cause a broken tooth?
Common causes of a broken tooth include the following:
- Chewing hard foods such as popcorn kernels or hard candy
- Grinding your teeth (bruxism)
- Chewing gum or ice
- Age: Broken teeth occur more often in children and people over 50
- Previous dental work: Large fillings and root canals can weaken the tooth
Broken tooth symptoms
Sometimes you might not even know you have a broken tooth. So, what symptoms should you watch for?
- Pain: According to the American Association of Endodontists, broken tooth pain may occur when chewing food
- Sensitivity to hot or cold foods
- Swelling around the tooth
How to fix a broken tooth
While a broken tooth may be minor, simply cracking the outer layer (enamel), it may be much more severe. Therefore, it is important to call your dentist anytime you notice a broken tooth or experience broken tooth pain.
This is especially important in children with their developing teeth. According to StatPearls, “Given the consequences of traumatic dental injuries on the child and the developing of permanent dentition [teeth condition], there is a need to educate parents, carers, teachers and health care professionals about the need for dental assessment and treatment of injuries to the primary dentition.”
Broken tooth repair options can vary from doing nothing to removing the tooth. Here are some ways your dentist might fix your broken tooth:
- Bonding: According to the Cleveland Clinic, bonding uses a tooth-colored composite resin material to enhance your smile. This procedure is used to repair chips, close down gaps or change the shape and color of a tooth.
- Crown: This is needed when a large piece of tooth breaks off, according to Penn Dental Medicine. Dental crowns are caps placed over the remaining tooth and can be made from several different substances.
- Extraction: The tooth may be so badly damaged that the only option left is to remove it.
- Root canal: This treatment is needed when the center part of the tooth is damaged and an orthodontist must go in and remove the damaged pulp, the Cleveland Clinic says.
- Veneer: Veneers are made of a durable material that wrap around, but do not cover, the entire tooth. If veneers are taken care of, they can last up to ten years, Penn Dental Medicine says.
While it may be tempting to attempt to treat a broken tooth at home, this is not advisable because it might result in further damage or infection. If you experience a broken tooth, your best option is to call your dentist and request an appointment as soon as possible.
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