Having a broken tooth is a painful experience. Fractured and broken teeth are among the most common dental emergencies. Whether the fractures on your tooth result from trauma or general wear and tear, you could experience serious pain. Many symptoms range from mild pain or discomfort when chewing your food to sudden pain when exposing your tooth to cold or hot temperatures. A cracked tooth could look like a minor issue, but it could allow bacteria to enter the tooth pulp and cause serious infections if left untreated.
If you experience any of the above symptoms or suspect a cracked or fractured tooth, it is crucial to seek immediate dental care. The sooner your tooth is treated, the better the chances of saving it. At Washington Dental, we will assess your problem and provide the appropriate treatment for broken and fractured teeth. We serve clients requiring emergency dental care in Los Angeles, Carson, Torrance, and Lomita, CA.
Overview of Fractured and Broken Teeth
A tooth fracture or a broken tooth is a crack or break in the tooth enamel. Tooth fractures range in severity. Some tooth cracks often cause little or no pain. However, the fractures could cause acute pain before and after biting down. Tooth cracks form on the surface facing the front and the surfaces facing back to the mouth. The fractures are more prevalent in the front teeth resulting from weakened dental restorations. There are several types of tooth fractures, including:
Craze lines are vertical lines that appear on the enamel of your teeth. Often, the craze lines look like straight patterns and are very shallow. Craze lines are easy to appear, and they occur when your teeth are exposed to daily stress. Common causes of this tooth fracture include uneven bite, chewing on frozen foods, and grinding your teeth. Craze lines are essentially harmless and do not cause pain. Therefore, treatment for this type of tooth fracture is none to improve the aesthetic purposes.
A fractured cusp is a common tooth injury that involves an incomplete or complete fracture of the crown. All posterior molars have up to four cusps that give your teeth anatomy and help with chewing. When there is tooth decay, the cusp could be fractured. Sometimes, the fractured cusp could break away and separate when you suffer the traumatic event. In addition to tooth decay, other factors that could cause a broken cusp are severe traumas, failed restorations, or chronic teeth clenching. Fractures to the cusps do not extend to the tooth pulp and are not painful.
A cracked tooth is an incomplete fracture originating from the crown and extending to the gingiva. Sometimes, the crack could spread through the marginal ridge. The depth of the tooth cracks varies and may extend into the tooth's root. Some tooth cracks are easily visible with magnification due to the staining from bacteria. However, the severity of the crack from the enamel surface may not correlate to the extent of the crack.
Tooth cracks result from excessive force and the weakened toot structure from worn-out dental restorations. Sometimes, your dentist could recommend that the repairs be removed to assess the extent of the cracks. The tooth cracks could progress and cause serious complications when left untreated.
A split tooth is a complete fracture that begins from the crown and extends through the marginal ridges to the root. Often, a split tooth is the end stage of the tooth crack evolution. With a split tooth, the tooth segments are entirely separated. Damaging behavior such as chewing on frozen foods and bruxism contributes significantly to tooth cracks that end up in split teeth. A split tooth could be associated with severe pain and discomfort.
Vertical Tooth Fracture
The vertical tooth fracture could be an incomplete or complete tooth root fracture. The fractures, in this case, extend the length of the root. Sometimes, the symptoms of vertical tooth fracture are not apparent and could only be discovered with x-rays. In most cases, the issue of vertical root fracture is associated with previous root canal treatment.
In all cases, the prognosis for vertical root fracture is hopeless. Therefore, prevention is essential. This condition can be prevented by minimizing dentin removal during root canal procedures. When you suffer a broken tooth, you can take the following steps to reduce additional damage to the tooth before going to your dentist:
- Apply pressure to the tooth if there is bleeding
- Avoid using the affected side for chewing
- Avoid biting and chewing on hard foods
- Protect the gums by applying dental wax to the broken tooth surface
- Use an ice pack on the affected area to reduce swelling
- Rinse your mouth with salty water
- Take pain relief medication
Symptoms Associated with Fractured and Broken Teeth
Identifying a broken or fractured tooth can be challenging. Depending on the type and severity of the fracture, you may fail to notice a difference. The following are some of the symptoms you should look out for if you are concerned about a fractured or broken tooth:
Tooth sensitivity. When a tooth is broken, the nerves could be exposed. Contact between cold or hot foods with the nerves will result in discomfort.
- Pain when chewing
- Infection of the gums or gum line
- Constant toothache
- Sore, painful, and swollen gums
- Movement of the tooth when you chew
Since the symptoms of fractured teeth can be confused with those of other dental infections, it is crucial to seek immediate dental care if you experience any of the above symptoms.
Is a Broken Tooth Considered to be a Dental Emergency?
A dental emergency is any event that warrants immediate dental care. In most cases, this involves scheduling an appointment with the dentist on the same day. Not every broken tooth will warrant emergency dental treatment. If you fall and chip a tooth, you may not need emergency dentistry services. You could call your dentist and schedule an appointment for a later date. This is because the chip does not pose any threat to your oral or general health.
Some of the indications that your fractured tooth is a dental emergency include:
- Pain while biting. If you experience mild discomfort that goes away when you relieve the pressure, you will not need emergency dental care. However, if you experience severe pain and discomfort that does not go away, you should consider booking an appointment with your dentist.
- Visible crack signs. Not all broken teeth have a visible crack. If it is clear that your tooth is fractured and you can see the damage without the need for a dental examination, you could be dealing with a dental emergency.
- Swollen gums. Depending on the severity of the crack, a broken tooth could cause sensitivity and severe pain to the gums. Swelling of the gums is always an indication that your tooth is infected. If the pain you experience after a tooth fracture lasts for an extended period, then you do not need to wait for your next dental appointment.
- A loose tooth. A broken tooth that has become loose qualifies as a dental emergency. Tooth loosening may result from the trauma that broke it and, when left untreated, could fall off.
- Blood oozing from the inside of the tooth is an indication that the pulp is compromised. If the blood can come out of the tooth, bacteria could easily enter via the same crack and cause severe infection. Therefore, if you notice bleeding on a broken tooth, you should make an emergency trip to the dentist.
Cause of Tooth Fractures
Your teeth are meant to last for a lifetime. However, the teeth endure constant force and stress throughout their lifespan. The enamel, which is the outermost layer of the tooth, endures the most pressure and can be prone to damage. Fractures and breaking of teeth vary in degree, and it all depends on the cause of the damages. Common causes of broken and fractured teeth include:
Cavities are one of the most common dental complications, and although they are treatable, they can cause severe damage to your teeth. Cavities weaken the tooth surface and increase the chances of injury under the slightest pressure. Although having broken teeth does not always mean that you have cavities, large cavities cause infection of the roots and surrounding areas. An infected tooth does not effectively utilize the nutrients and could be fractured easily.
The tooth enamel is made of one of the most robust structures in the body. However, when immense pressure is applied to your face, you could end up with broken teeth. Tooth fractures associated with facial trauma could range from minor chips on the tooth to severe fractures like a tooth split. Some of the most common forms of facial trauma that could result in broken teeth include slip and fall accidents, sports-related injuries, car accidents, or even assault. Facial trauma affects the front teeth mainly since they are easily accessible.
Clenching and Grinding
Bruxism is the medical term used to describe the act of grinding and clenching of your teeth. Teeth clenching and grinding could occur while you sleep, awake, or both. Most people who grind their teeth during sleep are unaware of the condition. Although mild teeth grinding may not be a problem, frequent and severe grinding or clenching could result in serious dental complications.
In addition to disrupting your sleep, teeth clenching could result in damage to your teeth. Frequent grinding could wear down the tooth enamel and cause cracks. Constant stress on teeth that have undergone procedures such as fillings could further damage the tooth. If you already have a broken tooth, grinding will likely worsen the situation.
Chewing on Hard Foods
Our teeth contain calcium and other nutrients, strengthening them and allowing us to chew hard foods. However, it would be best not to make it a routine to bite or chew complex objects. Biting hard foods like ice or candy could weaken the enamel and make it more prone to damage. Before chewing on hard foods, you need to ensure that you cut them into small pieces to minimize the pressure on your teeth.
Our teeth have different levels of strength. Since the front teeth have a thinner material, they are more prone to damage when biting hard foods. Any food or object that surpasses the strength of our teeth can cause fracturing and breaking of the tooth.
Poor Dental Hygiene
Poor oral hygiene practices are a general and common cause of broken and fractured teeth. The main aim of taking care of our teeth and maintaining proper hygiene is to prevent the accumulation of bacteria that could cause infections. Poor oral hygiene results in the overgrowth of bacteria on our teeth and gums. Bacteria causes tooth sensitivity, decay, and cavities, resulting in tooth fractures.
Past Dental Procedures
With the advancement of technology, dental procedures are available to correct almost all forms of dental complications. Veneers are used to improve the appearance of your teeth to procedures like root canal and dental fillings. Although dental procedures help solve our problems, they may increase the chances of developing tooth fractures.
For example, a root canal helps prevent further tooth decay and ease the pain associated with a decayed tooth. However, the dentist will remove the tooth pulp when perfuming the root canal, depriving the tooth of enough blood supply. As a result, your tooth becomes weak and could suffer fractures with the slightest pressure. Similarly, installing large dental fillings could exert unnecessary strain on the tooth enamel and cause severe damage.
Options to Fix Broken and Fractured Teeth
A broken or fractured tooth can be more than just trauma that stops you from smiling. Depending on the severity of the crack, a broken tooth could be a dental emergency and, when left untreated, will result in a severe dental complication. Fortunately, modern dentistry has the solutions to this type of dental complication. There are several options that your dentist could recommend to fix a broken tooth:
- Dental Crown. If your teeth are fractured or broken due to severe tooth decay, your dentist could repair them using a dental crown. With the fitting of dental crowns, the dentist files away from the damaged or decayed part and replaces it with a tooth-shaped crown. Depending on the outlook you choose, crowns could be made of metal, resin, ceramic, or porcelain. Before fitting the dental crowns, your dentist may perform an x-ray to ensure that your tooth root is intact.
- Veneers. If your front teeth are broken or fractured, the use of dental veneers will help restore their outlook. Veneers are thin shells of tooth-colored material covering the entire front of the tooth. When placing the veneers, the dentist will remove a small portion of your tooth enamel, create a tooth impression and make the veneers.
- Dental Filling or Bonding. If you have broken a small piece of your tooth enamel, your dentist could recommend dental filling to repair the fracture. If the fracture is on the front teeth that could be visible when you smile, your dentist will use bonding. The bonding procedure utilizes a tooth-colored composite to retain a white pearly smile. The bonding procedure is usually non-invasive and will not guarantee numbing of the tooth.
- Root Canal. If the fracture on your tooth is large enough to expose the pulp, bacteria from the moth and leftover food could enter the pulp and cause an infection. If you experience a toothache or gums change color after a tooth fracture, your pulp could be infected. Infection of the pulp often causes decay and death of the cells. A root canal involves the removal of the dead cells, leaning the root, and sealing it.
- Tooth Extraction. When left untreated, a broken enamel could expose the other parts of the tooth to bacteria which cause severe infection. An infected tooth could result in serious health complications. If the roots of the fractured tooth show signs of severe damage, extraction of the tooth may be the only option.
- Tooth Splint. Tooth splinting is a dental procedure used to attach weak teeth and turn them into a more robust and more stable unit. Tooth fractures often weaken your teeth, and your dentist can use a tooth splint to avoid losing the teeth.
- Onlay. Your dentist could use Onlay on molars that have significant cracks. Like crowns or veneers, dental crowns are made of porcelain or ceramic materials, and they help protect your tooth from further damage.
Steps to Prevent a Cracked Tooth
A cracked tooth could range from minor discomfort to a significant concern that will require emergency care. Although there are numerous corrective procedures you can undergo to restore the health and outlook of your tooth, you may need to undergo extensive procedures to determine the affected tooth. Also, some of these procedures could be quite painful. Therefore, it would be wise to prevent tooth fractures before they happen. Some of the steps you can take towards the prevention of broken and fractured teeth include:
- Maintain the strength of your tooth enamel. A tooth is made up of different layers which support its overall function. The enamel is the outer layer and the strongest part of the tooth. If the enamel is damaged, the other parts of your tooth will be exposed to bacteria and damage. Several things could damage your enamel, including the consumption of acidic and sugary foods. Additionally, habits such as grinding the teeth could weaken this layer of your tooth. By sticking to healthy and safe foods, you can help reduce the chances of developing tooth fractures.
- Pay attention to the sensitivity of the tooth. Tooth sensitivity may be an indicator that your tooth is about to crack. Although some people experience mild sensitivity and discomfort when they have a cracked tooth, this may not be the case for everyone. Therefore, maintaining regular dental checkups can help identify the issues.
- Maintain proper oral hygiene. Good oral hygiene is a significant part of caring for our teeth. Poor hygiene practices like failure to brush or floss your teeth could result in tooth decay and eventually fractures and cracks on the tooth enamel.
- Chew your food Correctly. Your mouth has the potential to exert up to 200 pounds of pressure when you bite. This amount of pressure is enough to crack and fracture your teeth. You can avoid causing damage to your teeth by ensuring that you chew your food correctly.
- Make regular dental checkups. Fractured and broken teeth are not uncommon. However, most dental problems are quickly and effectively resolved when detected early. Most dental fractures will worsen when left untreated. You do not need to be experiencing pain or have a complication to visit your dentist. Your dentist can identify and correct tooth fractures during your regular dental checkups before they cause further complications.
- Use a mouthguard. You can protect your teeth from physical trauma by using a mouth guard every time you participate in sports. A mouthguard is a rubber-like cover made to fit over your gums and teeth to protect them. If you play sports like hockey or football where there is a possibility of suffering racial trauma, you can ask your dentist to make you a mouthguard. Depending on your age, you may need to replace your mouthguard constantly.
Find a Skilled Emergency Dentist Near Me
Caring for your teeth involves improving the cosmetic appearance and maintaining good oral health and hygiene. Having a broken tooth takes away the beauty of your smile and the health of your mouth. A broken or fractured tooth could result from several factors, including age, facial trauma, and tooth grinding. Depending on the nature and extent of the fractures, broken teeth are not easily noticeable. However, cracks on the tooth could cause further complications when left untreated.
Fortunately, having a fractured tooth is not a permanent condition. At Washington Dental, we dedicate our skills and professionalism to restoring your beautiful smile and helping you avoid further dental complications. We serve clients requiring emergency dental care services to correct broken or fractured teeth in Los Angeles, Carson, Torrance, and Lomita, CA. Contact us today to book an appointment.