Fractured or Broken Tooth
Fractured or Broken Tooth
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If a small or large piece of tooth cracks or breaks off, it may or may not hurt and you may not notice the damage immediately because the nerve inside the tooth may or may not be damaged. If the nerve inside the tooth is exposed to air, saliva, or hot or cold foods or drinks, it can be extremely uncomfortable.
Pain from fractures may be constant or may come and go. Many people feel pain when they chew because as they chew they apply pressure to the tooth. As the fractured tooth bites down on the food, the crack in the tooth gets wider, but once the pressure is released, the crack closes again. Larger fractures may cause a portion of the tooth to break off.
There is no way to treat fractured teeth at home. You need to see Dr. Chan whenever a tooth is sensitive to changes in temperature or if it hurts while you’re eating. Pain that’s constant is a serious warning sign because it may mean that a fracture has damaged the nerve and live tissues inside the tooth.
As soon as possible, Dr. Chan will need to determine if the break was caused by decay and if the nerve is in danger. Adults with a damaged nerve usually will require root canal treatment, but in children, there’s a possibility the nerve can be saved, if the dentist is able to treat the problem immediately. In the meantime:
•Save the pieces. If the break was relatively clean, Dr. Chan may be able to cement the tooth back together as a temporary measure.
•Rinse your mouth well with warm water. If you were able to save the tooth fragment(s), rinse them under running water.
•If an area is bleeding, apply a piece of gauze or a teabag to the area for about 10 minutes or until the bleeding stops.
•Apply a cold compress to the cheek or lips over the broken tooth. This will help reduce swelling and relieve pain.
•If you cannot see Dr. Chan right away, cover the broken surface of the tooth that is in your mouth with temporary dental cement, available in pharmacies.
•If you are in pain and your medical history allows it, take an over-the-counter pain reliever.
Cracked teeth demonstrate many types of symptoms, including pain when chewing, temperature sensitivities, or even the release of biting pressure. It is also common for pain to come and go, making it difficult to diagnose the cause of discomfort.
Chewing can cause movement of the cracked pieces of your tooth, and the pulp within the tooth becomes irritated. At the same time, when biting pressure is released, the crack can close quickly, resulting in sharp pain. Eventually, the pulp will become damaged and tooth will consistently hurt, even when you are not chewing. It is possible that cracks can lead to infection of the pulp tissue, which can spread to the bone and gum surrounding the problematic tooth.
Types of Cracked Teeth
These are tiny cracks that only affect the outer enamel of the tooth. These cracks are more common in adults. These types of cracks are superficial and are usually of no concern.
When a cusp becomes weakened, a fracture may result. The cusp may break off or be removed by a dentist. A fractured cusp rarely damages the pulp, so root canal is not necessary. Dr. Chan will usually restore the tooth with a full crown.
This type of crack extends from the chewing surface of the tooth and vertically migrates towards the root. In some cases, the crack may extend below the gum line. It is possible for the crack to extend further into the root. Damage to the pulp is commonplace. In this case, root canal treatment is usually necessary. A cracked tooth that is not treated will worsen, resulting in the loss of the tooth. Therefore, early detection is essential.
A split tooth is usually the result of an untreated cracked tooth. It can be identified by a crack with distinct segments. This type of tooth can never be saved intact. Yet, the position and extent of the problem will dictate whether any portion of the tooth can be saved. Sometimes, endodontic re-treatment by the doctors and restoration by Dr. Chan can be used to save a portion of the tooth.
Vertical Root Fracture
A vertical root fracture begins at the root and extends towards the chewing surface of the tooth. Unfortunately, they show minimal symptoms and may go unnoticed. Treatment involves endodontic surgery if a portion of the tooth can be saved by removal of the fractured root. Otherwise the tooth will have to be extracted.