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In a minute you’re living your best taco Tuesday life when you suddenly find yourself nibbling on part of your tooth.
Keep calm, amigo! Even the best chompers can chip off. Tooth enamel can be the hardest substance in the human body, but also The has its limits – like slapping the sidewalk, getting a slap in the face, or eating a corn tortilla.
There are temporary and permanent ways to repair a broken tooth, such as:
- Patch it up with a handy dandy drug store Tooth repair kit
- fill or glue the damage
- Root canal and crown placement preserved
- Extract the tooth and replace it with an implant
And not all cracks and chips need treatment. But let̵
If you’ve chipped, cracked, or completely destroyed a tooth, you should contact your dentist as soon as possible. Further damage or infection can lead to tooth loss.
In the meantime, keep the following steps in mind:
- If you experience pain or tenderness, take an acetaminophen or other over-the-counter pain reliever (OTC).
- Apply For a natural anesthetic with anti-inflammatory properties, put clove oil on the tooth, but do not swallow it.
- Rinse your mouth out with salt water.
- Cover sharp edges with a piece of sugar-free gum. Paraffin wax or Orthowax (the stuff your orthodontist gives you when you have braces).
- Stick to soft foods and avoid biting the damaged tooth.
Treatment for a broken tooth depends on how badly it is damaged. Here’s what your dentist can do over the long term.
Not all cracked or chipped teeth require treatment, but they should always be examined by a dentist.
Damage can range from deep cracks to the root of the tooth and nerves to invisible cracks in the tooth or under the gums. Your dentist will assess the damage and determine the best course of treatment by:
- examine the tooth
- Take x-rays
- possibly do a bite test
Fillings and bonds
If you’ve broken off a small piece of tooth enamel in the back of your mouth, your dentist will likely patch it up with a filling. If the chip is in the front and more noticeable, they’re likely using a process called bonding, which involves patching the area with a tooth-colored composite resin.
Gluing is pretty easy and doesn’t require anesthesia.
What to expect when bonding a broken tooth?
- The dentist paints your tooth with a liquid gel to give it a texture that the adhesive material can adhere to.
- Then they put an adhesive on the tooth, followed by a tooth colored resin.
- Next, they shape the resin so that it looks and feels like a natural tooth.
- Then they use UV light to harden and set the material.
- Lastly, they cut it, shape it even more and shine your tooth.
And let’s go! Just like new.
Caps and crowns
Tooth caps and crowns are as stylish as they sound and durable. They are used to repair large chips and damage from decay.
To protect and improve the appearance of the damaged tooth, the dentist files down part of the tooth and covers it with a crown or tooth-shaped cap.
Crowns come in a variety of packs – metal, porcelain / ceramic, metal-fused porcelain, and all-resin. Unsurprisingly, all-metal crowns are the strongest, but porcelain and resin crowns look the same as regular teeth. You do you
Crowns usually make two visits. First, you will take x-rays and have the roots and surrounding bone examined. When everything is checked, the dentist will numb the area and file down your tooth to make room for the crown. When you have a large piece of tooth that is chipped or missing, a filling material is used to build up the tooth for a crown.
Next, the dentist uses putty to create an impression that both the tooth is receiving a crown and the opposite tooth that touches it when it bites. The dentist can attach a temporary acrylic crown while the impressions are sent to a laboratory to create a permanent crown.
The permanent crown will likely be glued in around 2 to 3 weeks later.
Not to get your hopes up, but some dental offices have a digital milling machine that allows you to get a crown in the same day without making putty marks. Instead, you will get a cool digital scan. So extra.
Speaking of extra: if a front tooth has a small crack, a tooth veneer can be made of tooth-colored porcelain or resin composite material to cover the entire front tooth. The material is thicker and completely masks the broken tooth.
To do this, your dentist will remove approximately 0.3 to 1.2 millimeters of surface enamel. Next, they take an impression of the tooth to send to a laboratory for creation. A week or two later you go back to have it attached.
Placing the veneer is a simple process in which the tooth is primed with roughening liquid and the veneer is glued onto the prepared tooth. Finally, the dentist uses UV light to cure the cement. Say cheese!
Root canal therapy
If a chip or tear exposes the delicate center of the tooth, which contains nerves and blood vessels, you run the risk of infecting the “tooth pulp”.
Symptoms of pulp damage include:
- Change in tooth color
- Sensitivity to heat and cold
If damaged pulp tissue is not removed, the tooth can become infected and must be removed. The root canal treatment removes the dead pulp, cleanses the root canal and reseals it.
A general dentist or endodontist can perform the procedure. The procedure feels like a routine cavity filling. Most often the remaining tooth needs to be covered with a crown to protect the weakened tooth. (It would make more sense to call it a helmet, no?)
Molars have multiple roots. If the fracture breaks a root, you may need a root amputation (also known as a hemisection) to protect the rest of the tooth. After that, a root canal and crown are added to the remaining tooth.
Your endodontist may recommend surgery to remove calcium deposits from previous root canals or to check for cracks hidden beneath the surface.
If you are experiencing the mother of all chips and breaks, the tooth may need to be removed all together. According to a recent study, the deeper the crack is, the more likely it will need to be extracted.
When you end up extracting a tooth, your endodontist will likely suggest a dental implant that looks and works like your natural tooth.