What are My Options to Repair Cracked or Broken Teeth?

We are living through some unusual and stressful times.  In many people, this stress manifests itself in the physical form through heavy clenching and/or grinding of the teeth.  You might do this at night while sleeping or throughout the day.  Regardless of when you do it, it is important to understand that this could be the cause of cracked or broken teeth.

Why are Cracked Teeth a Problem?

During the formation of teeth, the body makes the enamel that coats the outer portion of each tooth in a single continuous layer.  This unbroken structure is vital to insulating the tooth from temperature sensations, protecting against damage when we eat and drink, and providing the hard foundation for chewing.  Enamel is the hardest structure in the human body.  But that doesn’t make it invincible.

Enamel can crack or break in response to excessive forces, whether they occur all at once (as in an injury) or in small doses over time (as with teeth grinding).  Enamel must maintain its integrity as a single unbroken layer around each tooth to properly function.  When cracks break the integrity of the enamel, it no longer protects the tooth from bacteria, and it no longer insulates the tooth from hot and cold sensations.

Cracks progress over time, and if untreated, can deepen all the way to the root of a tooth.  Some cracks are so severe that the tooth cannot be saved with any dental treatment at all.

Do Cracked Teeth Hurt?

Surprisingly, the answer to this question is “not always”.  It is possible to have a cracked tooth with no symptoms at all.  More commonly, though, cracked teeth cause sensitivity to cold and/or hot temperatures and tenderness on chewing.  Cracks also allow bacteria into the tooth, which can cause deep cavities.

Can the Dentist Fix a Cracked Tooth?

Most of the time, we can!  When we catch a crack in a tooth in its earliest stages, we can repair the tooth by removing the superficial cracked enamel and replacing it with an adhesive, tooth-colored filling material that “holds the tooth together”.  This treatment involves the same process as a traditional filling, except we are removing cracked enamel instead of decay.

In later stages, we can repair a cracked tooth by replacing the entire structure of cracked enamel with a dental crown.  A crown covers the entire exposed portion of a tooth, performing the same functions as enamel.

In some cases, the crack allows irritation of the nerve inside the tooth.  If this inflammation worsens to a state known as “irreversible pulpitis”, a dental crown alone won’t fix your problem.  If there is irreversible nerve involvement in the crack, then a root canal is necessary before the outer portion of the tooth is repaired with the crown.

Again, in the worst case scenarios, dental treatment cannot repair the tooth, so we must extract it.

Can You Prevent Cracked Teeth?

Great question!  Yes!

We can prevent large trauma to the teeth by wearing athletic mouthguards during contact sports or any other high-risk activities.  We can protect teeth from continual heavy forces over time by wearing professional nightguards to separate the teeth at night and protect against clenching and/or grinding.

Think You May Have a Cracked Tooth?

If you think you may have a cracked tooth, don’t put it off.  The earlier we catch it, the simpler the treatment is.  Call 940-382-1750 to schedule an evaluation with Dr. Chowning as soon as possible!

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