Though teeth are remarkably strong, they can chip, crack (fracture) or break. This 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
Cracked teeth may not always hurt but your tongue usually feels the sharp area quite quickly. Minor tooth fractures are usually painless, while large fractures can hurt. The nerve inside the tooth may be damaged due to bacterial contamination from saliva. Extreme discomfort also can happen when nerve endings in the dentin are exposed. 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
FIRST AID / THINGS YOU CAN DO:
Cracked (Fractured) Teeth
Unfortunately there is not much you can do at home. Cracked teeth are like cracks on your car windscreen. They only get worse over time. You need to see a dentist at Health Precinct at the earliest as we prioritize emergency appointments. Sometimes the tooth looks fine, but it will start hurting when you eat 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, but pain occurs when you release the bite.
If you have a broken tooth, see us at Health Precinct 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 treatment.
As a first aid:
- Rinse your mouth well with warm water.
- Apply pressure with a piece of gauze on any bleeding areas for about 10 minutes or until the bleeding stops. If this doesn’t work, use a tea bag with pressure on the area to stop the bleeding.
- Apply a cold pack to the cheek or lips over the broken tooth. This will help reduce swelling and relieve pain.
- If you can’t get to see us right away, cover the part of the tooth that is in your mouth with temporary dental cement. You can find this at a drugstore.
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever.
Treatment offered at Health Precinct:
There are several types of tooth fractures and breaks, each of which requires different treatments. These include:
- Minor cracks / Chips— Craze line affects only the enamel of the tooth and is painless. Minor cracks rarely need treatment. We may suggest repairing 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 polish and smooth out the chipped area.
- Broken cusp— Cusps are the structural components of your tooth and have a pivotal role in grinding food. They usually do not affect the pulp and are unlikely to cause much pain. Your dentist may repair the damage to restore the tooth’s shape to avoid further structural damage to tooth, protect the nerve and improve your chewing efficiency. Frequently, an onlay or crown will be required.
- Cracked tooth — this type of fracture involves the whole tooth, from the chewing surface all the way down to the nerve. The pieces remain in place, but the crack gradually spreads. Serious cracks can involve the nerve and usually the broken part of the tooth will bleed. Treatment of cracked teeth may be a mere filling to repair the crack. Cracked teeth often 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. If the crack has gone down to the roots, tooth might have to be extracted too.
- 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, which will then be covered with a crown. First, you will need root canal treatment. Second, the dentist will remove any roots that cannot be kept. Third, you will need a crown to cover the root and replace the tooth. In some cases, when a root cannot be saved, 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. Your dentist 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.