Teeth are incredibly strong and can withstand great force or pressure being placed upon them, but even they can have their breaking point. Biting down on something the wrong way, suffering some sort of facial trauma like a sports injury, or even excessive grinding of your teeth can all lead to tooth fractures and the need to visit a local dentist near you to treat them. But what is a tooth fracture and can a tooth that’s been fractured be saved?
To understand what a tooth fracture is, we need to review tooth anatomy: the tooth is made up of two main parts: a crown (the visible part of your tooth) and the root (the part of your tooth under the gum anchoring your tooth to your jawbone.
The crown is then made up of three separate layers:
A tooth fracture can happen to any of these layers but the deeper the fracture the more serious it is and the more work will be necessary to try to save the tooth.
The most common type of tooth fracture is the enamel fracture, where a piece of the tooth’s outer layer is chipped or split. Fractured enamel does not hurt, and you are really only aware that your tooth has been chipped because you see it, or you can feel it with your tongue, lips or cheek.
Does An Enamel Tooth Fracture Hurt? No, the tooth will not feel any pain, however, the surrounding cheeks or tongue could become irritated from rubbing against the jagged remaining bit of tooth.
How Can An Enamel Tooth Fracture Be Fixed? It can be fixed by either rebuilding the chipped section with tooth colored bonding (usual for a front tooth), or polishing the chipped area to smooth it down (usual for a small fracture of a back tooth).
What Causes Enamel Tooth Fractures? Many things can cause this type of tooth fracture including; chewing ice, trauma (examples: getting elbowed while drinking from a bottle, talking while eating and biting into the fork, a fall), or biting into something hard in the food (uncooked rice grain).
A tooth fracture that goes deeper than just the enamel is called a dentine fracture. This is where the fracturing of the enamel exposes the underlying dentine typically causing some pain.
Does A Dentine Tooth Fracture Hurt? Usually yes, the tooth becomes very sensitive to temperature. If the fracture is the result of trauma, the tooth may also be tender to biting or touching for 3-5 days.
How Can A Dentine Tooth Fracture Be Fixed? The tooth can be fixed by rebuilding the chipped section with tooth colored bonding making sure that the dentine is sealed once again.
What Causes Dentine Tooth Fracture? Similar to enamel fracture’s things like chewing ice, trauma, or biting into something hard can all cause this type of fracture especially if the teeth are weak from lack of proper oral hygiene.
Very deep tooth fractures can not only expose the dentine layer of the tooth but can reach part of the nerve. This type of tooth fracture will most likely cause you pain as an exposed nerve is incredibly sensitive. This type of fracture needs to be dealt with quickly to save the tooth.
Do Nerve Exposure Tooth Fractures Hurt? Yes, the tooth is sensitive to temperature, breathing or spontaneously. If the fracture is the result of trauma, the tooth may also be tender to biting or touching for 3-5 days. Because the exposed nerve can be irritated by just breathing,the best thing you can do to try to reduce pain until you can get to a dentist is to breathe through your nose and keep your mouth closed as much as possible. A dental appointment will be needed to numb the tooth and treat it.
How Can A Nerve Exposure Fracture Be Fixed? Most of the time a root canal is needed, followed by rebuilding the tooth with a crown. However, in children and adolescents a front tooth fracture at this level can be treated without a root canal followed by yearly monitoring of the nerve condition.
What Causes Nerve Exposure Fractures? The same kinds of things that cause enamel or dentine fractures can cause nerve exposure fractures if they are done harder or if the tooth is weaker and more susceptible to trauma.
Most crown-level tooth fractures can be fixed but it is important to go see an experienced dentist near you if you’ve suffered a tooth fracture so that they can repair the damage before it gets worse or leads to further tooth decay.
Unfortunately root level tooth fractures, also referred to as cracked teeth, are usually not treatable and require the extraction of the tooth and replacement with a dental implant. These types of tooth fractures can occur from trauma, clenching, or biting into something hard such as an olive pit or chewing ice. Occasionally root fractures can occur under a crown that isn’t even damaged, usually because the roots have been weakened by a previous root canal treatment or a large post. If a root fracture occurs under the crown of the tooth the treatment is to extract the tooth and replace it with a dental implant or a dental bridge.
If you are dealing with a fractured tooth whether it be just a small chip of enamel or a large fracture with the nerve exposed it is always best to make an appointment with your local family dentist for them to check it out and treat it. Your teeth are designed the way they are to protect your gums and mouth from harmful bacteria. If you leave a chipped tooth untreated it can expose the tooth and make it vulnerable to cavities or even an abscess. If you live in the New York City area and are dealing with a chipped tooth don’t hesitate to reach out to our office here at Making You Smile Cosmetic Dental Studio NYC. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have or to book an appointment for you.