Your dental health is a significant part of your appearance and overall health. Unfortunately, dental complications like broken or fractured teeth could compromise your oral health. Although the tooth enamel is the most robust and mineralized tissue in the body, its strength has a limit. Excessive pressure or trauma to the mouth could result in broken teeth. Whether your tooth breaks from trauma or general wear and tear, you could experience severe pain and sensitivity symptoms.
A fractured or broken tooth means a dental emergency that needs a trip to the dentist. There are a variety of procedures that can help save your tooth from a fracture or breakage. However, you will need the services of a skilled emergency dentist to do so. At The Whittier Dentist, we will employ our advanced technology to detect the extent of your tooth fractures and recommend the proper treatment to restore the appearance and function of your teeth. We serve clients seeking emergency dentist services in Whittier, CA.
Overview of Fractured and Broken Teeth
A tooth fracture or breakage ranges from a minor nuisance to a severe concern depending on the fracture’s cause, severity, and location. In most cases, a broken tooth is a dental emergency. When left untreated, this type of tooth damage could result in severe complications, including:
- Swelling of the gums.
- Severe pain when biting or chewing.
- Sensitivity to temperature fluctuations.
- Bad Breath.
If you suffer a severe tooth breakage or fracture, you need to:
- Collect the tooth fragments. If the damage to your tooth is severe and some parts of the enamel are broken off, you need to collect them and handle them with care. When handling a knocked-off tooth, you should only touch the crown.
- Rinse the tooth and put it back. You should rinse the broken part of the tooth with warm water and reinsert it back to its original position. If it is impossible to put the broken piece back, you need to store it in a glass of milk to protect it from drying out.
- Treat the immediate symptoms. If you experience severe bleeding or swelling after a tooth fracture or breakage, you need to control the bleeding before visiting the dentist. This could be done by putting pressure on the area with sterile wire gauze and taking some pain medication.
- Seek emergency dental care. It would be best if you did not wait to book a dental appointment for teeth with serious fractures or breakage. Seeking emergency care will help prevent the complications associated with this type of injury.
Types of Tooth Fractures
There are several types of tooth fractures or breaks that you could experience, and the treatment you undergo will vary depending on the kind of fracture you have:
Craze lines are fractures of the enamel. These micro-fractures only occur within the enamel and do not penetrate the tooth dentin layer. While all teeth could have craze lines, they are often seen in the front teeth and vertical strains. Craze lines are challenging to detect with the naked eye and may require trans-illumination for precise observation. Craze lines are often a result of blunt trauma or recurrent forces such as tooth grinding and clenching.
You may fail to experience any symptoms with craze lines, and treatment in the initial stages is done for cosmetic reasons. However, failure to treat these craze lines could result in further tooth damage.
A fractured cusp is an incomplete or complete fracture of the tooth crown which extends to the gingival. The cusps that are more prone to fractures are the lingual cusps of lower molars. Force exerted when chewing or biting on hard foods contributes significantly to the worsening of the fracture. Additionally, compromised and weak cusps resulting from old dental restorations could increase your susceptibility to the damage.
With a complete fracture, the cusp breaks and separates during a traumatic event. When a tooth suffers a fractured cusp, the remaining part of the tooth may be sensitive to temperature. Depending on the degree of fracture, your tooth could be saved with a tooth canal or other treatments. However, your dentist could recommend extracting the tooth if the fracture is extensive.
A split tooth is a complete fracture originating from the crown. This type of tooth fracture often extends through the marginal ridges of the tooth and causes complete separation of the tooth segments. Some of the habits that could result in a split tooth include chewing hard candy, ice, and teeth grinding. In most cases, restoration of a split tooth is not possible, and the split root may need to be removed, after which your dentist will discuss replacement options.
A cracked tooth is an incomplete fracture that involves the entire tooth. Often, this type of fracture begins from the chewing surface down to the tooth nerves. While the broken pieces remain in place, the cracks spread gradually. A tooth crack’s exact location and extent may be challenging to determine. Some cracks are stained with bacteria and can only be seen in magnification during your dental exams. Therefore, your dentist may carry out dental x-rays before determining the course of action.
You could experience pain when biting and chewing with a cracked tooth. Individuals with prior tooth restorations may have a weakened tooth structure, increasing their susceptibility to this type of tooth damage.
Sometimes, tooth cracks can be repaired with filling materials. However, you could need an extensive form of restoration in extreme conditions. Since there is no specific treatment for a cracked tooth, your dentist will discuss your options depending on your budget, expected outcome, and aesthetic factors.
Vertical Root Fracture
A vertical root fracture may be an incomplete or complete fracture. This type of fracture may occur in the shorter segment of the root or extend through the length of the root. Vertical root fractures are not easily visible and do not exhibit many symptoms. The vertical root fracture will often be discovered during your routine dental x-rays.
Almost all vertical root fractures occur in individuals who have undergone tooth canal procedures. Therefore, minimizing dentin removal during a root canal could help reduce susceptibility to this type of tooth fracture.
Decay Induced Tooth Break
When you suffer from tooth decay, the tooth cavity is weakened from the inside out. This causes your tooth to break and crumble. Sometimes, tooth breakage caused by decay could extend from the enamel to the bone. Before treating this type of tooth fracture, your dentist will evaluate the extent of the cavity and determine the right way to restore the tooth.
Causes of Teeth and Tooth Fractures
Several reasons could lead to a fractured or broken tooth, including:
Facial trauma is a common cause of broken and fractured teeth. Your tooth enamel is the strongest part of your body. However, they can suffer severe fractures and breakage when force is applied to them. Some of the most common forms of facial trauma that could result in fracturing the teeth include sport-related injuries, physical assault, or falls. Broken teeth occurring from facial trauma often affect the front teeth, which are more challenging to treat than the molars.
Chewing Hard Foods
Our teeth contain calcium and other nutrients that make them strong enough to chew hard foods. However, this is not an indication that chewing hard foods is a healthy habit. Biting on hard edibles like ice cubes and hard candy weakens the tooth enamel and increases its susceptibility to fracture. When you chew on crunchy foods like carrots, it would be best to cut them into smaller pieces before chewing.
Additionally, you should remember that the front teeth are thinner than other sets, and you should be careful when chewing these foods with them. Any stronger food increases the risk of tooth breakage and should be avoided.
Tooth cavity is a prevalent dental complication. Although most tooth cavities are treatable, they could result in serious tooth damage. Tooth cavities often weaken the surface of the tooth. While a crack does not mean that your tooth has a cavity, a large tooth cavity can result in infection of the tooth and the connective tissues around the teeth. Infections in these tissues cause a lack of nutrients and a weakening of the tooth enamel.
Grinding and Clenching
While grinding teeth is a way for some people to relieve stress, the habit can result in serious dental complications. Grinding and clenching of teeth put excessive pressure on your tooth enamel, leaving your teeth vulnerable to fracturing or other dental complications. Additionally, a study shows that excessive clenching can put you at risk of the temporomandibular joint syndrome and other facial complications.
Poor Oral Hygiene
Poor dental hygiene is a fundamental cause of broken and fractured teeth. The main aim of taking care of our teeth and practicing good dental hygiene habits is to prevent the development of bacteria and other dental infections. Failure to maintain good practices like regular brushing will result in the growth of bacteria. The acid and toxins produced by these bacteria weaken the tooth structure and increases the likelihood of breakage. Additionally, using inappropriate brushing and flossing methods could introduce bacteria to the tooth’s inner layers, resulting in damage.
With advancements in technology, you could undergo many dental procedures to treat dental complications or cosmetic purposes. While most dental procedures improve the appearance and functionality of your teeth, some of the procedures could weaken teeth. Procedures like root canal involve removing some part of the tooth that interferes with the tooth structure.
Exposure to Acidic and Hot Foods
While the tooth enamel is a hard substance, exposure to acids or very hot substances could collide the tooth surface. When you follow these foods with cold water, the change in temperature or ph. could result in a weakened enamel which ends up with a fracture or breakage.
Common Symptoms of a Fractured or Broken Tooth
The tooth enamel may be the strongest part of your body but may be prone to breakage or fractures as the bones do. Unfortunately, identifying a broken or fractured tooth is not easy. Some fractures are not visible to the naked eye, and you may need dental x-rays. The following are some common signs of tooth fractures that you need to look out for:
- Pain when biting or chewing. Although a fractured tooth dies not to experience pain each time you eat, pain when chewing or biting may indicate this dental problem. The pain associated with tooth fractures often results from chewing on hard foods like candy.
- Lack of constant pain. Unlike a dental abscess or tooth cavity where the pain is consistent, pain associated with a broken or fractured tooth is unpredictable and inconsistent. If you experience tooth pain that is not chronic, you could likely be suffering from a tooth fracture.
- Gum swelling and infection. When the tooth enamel is cracked, bacteria could enter the tooth through that crack and cause injection of the tooth and gums. Infection around a tooth fracture may look like a small bump near the gums.
- Increased sensitivity. Sometimes pain and sensitivity when consuming cold or hot foods may indicate a tooth fracture.
- No visible signs. Unlike tooth decay or cavities, when you can spot the signs, you may fail to notice any symptoms when your tooth is fractured or cracked.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Broken and Fractured Teeth
A broken or fractured tooth can be very frustrating. While diagnosing the fractures is challenging, it is isn’t impossible. Detecting the location and extent of a tooth fracture will require visual observations through a magnifying lens or x-rays. After assessing the breakage or fractures, the dentist could recommend any of the following treatment procedures:
If your front teeth are broken or chipped, your dentist could recommend fitting them with dental veneers to restore their appearance and functionality. A dental veneer is a thin shell of a tooth-colored porcelain material covering the front part of the tooth enamel. Your dentist prepares your tooth for a porcelain veneer by removing a small portion of the enamel. The dentist will then make an impression and send it to be the lab where the veneers are made. Veneers are a custom mad restoration best suited for the front teeth’ aesthetic appearance.
Dental Bonding or Filling
If you have chipped a small piece of your tooth enamel, your dentist could repair it with a dental filling. The dentist could use traditional filling when the fracture is on the back teeth. However, bonding that uses a tooth-colored material for the front teeth is more suitable. Tooth bonding is a simple procedure that does not require numbing of the tooth. The dentist will roughen up the tooth surface and use a sticky gel to attach the bonding material to your tooth.
If your tooth breakage results from tooth decay or dental cavities, the dentist could file away the damaged part of the tooth and cover it with a dental crown. Dental crowns are designed to protect your tooth from further damage and restore its function. Crowns are made of different materials, including fused metal, gold, porcelain, and resin.
Often, your dentist will recommend a dental crown when your tooth suffers a complete fracture and the tooth breaks, but the root remains intact. Fitting f a dental crown takes at least two visits. In the first visit, the dentist will use x-rays to check the integrity of the tooth root. If the root is healthy, the dentist will numb the tooth and remove enough material to create room for a dental crown.
An impression of the tooth will then be created to make a dental crown. In the times between the first and last appointment, the dentist will fit your teeth with a temporary crown removed when the actual crown is placed.
Root Canal Therapy
When a tooth chip or break is too large, it could expose the tooth pulp, which contains the blood vessels and nerves. The bacteria from the mouth and leftover food particles could enter the pulp and cause a severe infection through such a fracture. If you experience severe tooth pain and sensitivity after a tooth fracture, it may be a sign that your pulp is damaged. If your doctor recommends tooth canal therapy, they will remove the damaged part of the pulp, clean the root canal and seal it.
When the pressure or tooth decay is very severe, the fractures and breakages resulting from such an event are often very severe. If the tooth structure, roots, and nerves are severely damaged from a broken tooth, your dentist may recommend extracting the tooth. After the extraction, you could explore other forms of tooth replacement.
Tips to Prevent tooth Fractures and Breaks
There are many procedures through which a dentist can help you restore a broken or fractured tooth. However, preventing these injuries is better than undergoing painful and extensive treatment procedures. Following are some tips you can explore to avoid broken teeth or fractures:
- Wearing a mouthguard. Trauma from vigorous sports is one of the most common causes of tooth fractures and breaks. The best way to protect your teeth from trauma-induced injuries is by wearing a mouthguard. A mouth guard will not affect your ability to speak or breathe when appropriately fitted.
- Wear a nightguard. Tooth grinding is one of the habits that exerts unnecessary pressure and force on your teeth. Teeth grinding occurs at night when one is unconscious. Therefore, wearing a nightguard could help prevent tooth damage if you grind or clench your teeth.
- Avoid chewing on hard foods and biting hard objects. Many tooth fractures and breakage result from exerting pressure on the tooth enamel by chewing on hard candies and ice. Many people who experience tooth fractures have a habit of chewing ice. People chew ice to keep cool in the summer or satisfy their hunger without consuming calories. You can prevent tooth fractures or damage by avoiding these habits.
- Maintaining good oral health. One of the common causes of tooth fractures and breakage is tooth decay and cavities. By practicing proper dental hygiene, you can prevent cavities and tooth decay. This helps maintain a strong tooth structure that is not susceptible to fractures.
- Avoid using your teeth as tools. A common and inappropriate dental habit is using your teeth to bite on non-food items or bottle openers. It can be challenging to notice that your tooth has begun to crack. Therefore, repeated use of your teeth as a tool could weaken it and increase the visibility of the crack.
- Make regular dental checkups. As earlier stated, detecting a broken or fractured tooth can be difficult. Some tooth fractures are invisible to the naked eye and may require procedures like x-rays. When you make your routine dental checkups, your dentist will be able to detect signs of damage and recommend the proper treatment to avoid losing your tooth.
Find a Knowledgeable Dentist Near Me
Caring for your teeth is not only about improving your appearance but also maintaining good oral health. The health of your teeth and mouth contributes significantly to your overall health, and a broken or fractured tooth could compromise your oral health and wellbeing. While having a broken tooth is a dental emergency that could result in numerous complications, it is not permanent. When you visit an emergency dentist, they can help treat the pain associated with the breakage, assess the extent of damage, and recommend a proper treatment to restore the outlook and functionality of your tooth.
Your oral health is a sensitive aspect of your life, and you will not want to entrust it with just any dentist. At The Whittier Dentist, we dedicate our skills, professionalism, and experience to restoring your broken or fractured teeth to maintain a healthy and beautiful smile. We serve clients seeking treatment for fractured, broken teeth and other dental complications in Whittier, CA. Contact us today at 562-632-1223.