My Dentist said that my tooth is cracked and needs to be taken out. Can it not just be filled in?
Although enamel is the hardest substance in our body (way more harder than bone) and can withstand a great deal of wear and tear, certain stresses can still put our beautiful smiles at risk for fracturing.
There are many types of cracked teeth and your treatment options will depend on the location, type and severity of the fracture. Even a perfectly healthy tooth can develop a crack severe enough to end the life of that tooth.
Understand that a cracked tooth is different than a chipped tooth. Unlike bone, enamel cannot repair a crack by filling it in with more enamel. Most teeth that chip or fracture a cusp is repaired using filling material or the placement of a full coverage crown when the break occurs in the crown portion of the tooth. Even teeth that break off at the gum line can still be built back up again.
However, there are some breaks to the tooth that actually cause a fracture line to occur down into the root or split the tooth partially or entirely. Once the crack reaches below the gum line and into the root surface, the condition is untreatable and the tooth must be removed.
Signs & Symptoms of a Cracked Tooth:
– pain while biting or chewing
– sensitivity to hot or cold
– portion of the crown is mobile (loose)
– infected pulp
– a toothache that comes and goes
– no signs or symptoms
“Cracked tooth syndrome describes a tooth with an incomplete fracture but no part of the tooth has broken off yet.”
Although early detection and treatment is essential to minimize the risks associated with a compromised tooth, sometimes, a cracked tooth is hard to detect when the signs and symptoms are not always obvious and dental imaging does not show the fracture. Other times, it is evident to us, but the patient is completely unaware that they have a fractured tooth.
If your dentist has advised that your tooth needs to be removed, it is likely that the break is severe and deep enough that the tooth cannot be saved and must be removed and replaced. This is why regular dental checkups and exams are so important.
Hope as a Strategy…
We have patients who ask us how long they can wait until they have the time or finances to repair a cracked tooth. One can only hope that the situation will not worsen, but hope can be a poor strategy when dealing with a fracture line. Without the assistance of a crystal ball, we cannot determine with certainty how long someone can wait to delay treatment. Experience tells us that, in order to the disappointing loss of a tooth, fractures should be at least be examined to determine what type of crack you’re dealing with.
A simple cracked or chip in the enamel can be smoothed off until it can be repaired properly. However, deeper fractures that reach into the dentinal or nerve chamber must be treated quickly so that the problem does not worsen and cause an infection, crack the root or split the tooth.
Prevention: The Better Strategy
As the saying goes, “Do something now that your future self will thank you for.” Taking some preventative steps now can reduce the likelihood of tooth fractures in the future.
1. An unbelievable amount of force is exerted your teeth is you clench and grind at night. Your dentist can make you a custom-fitted night guard to protect your teeth while you sleep.
2. Wear a protective mouth guard and/or mask during high risk activities such as sports.
3. If you chew on hard objects like pencils and ice or use your teeth to open/hold objects ~Stop! Be extra careful also when eating food with bones, kernels or seeds/pits.
4. Follow the recommendation of your dentist when they advise you to have a crown placed on teeth that are most vulnerable to fracturing such as those with large fillings or have been root canal treatment.
Your teeth can serve you well for a lifetime if they are not treated as an afterthought. Following these prevention tips, having regular dental check-ups and attending to any necessary restorative care when they are small issues does not rob you of your choice and focus as emergency situations often do.
And, if you experiencing any of the aforementioned signs and symptoms, see your dentist immediately!
Yours in Better Dental Health,