Biting into something hard and hearing your tooth crack is incredibly frustrating and also painful. You certainly need to call your dentist right away when this happens, as exposing the inner layers of your tooth to food and the bacteria in your mouth could lead to an infection and increase your chances of losing your tooth. But what should you expect when you do show up to your dentist's appointment? Here's a look.
Your dentist will start by looking at the chipped tooth to see how deep the chip is and whether there are any more serious cracks radiating off the chip that need addressing. If this is painful for you, the dentist might give you a shot of local anesthetic to numb the area first. He or she may poke and prod your tooth a bit, but you should not feel any pain once the anesthesia sets in.
If your dentist thinks the chip or crack might be more than superficial, he or she will take x-rays to get a better idea of how deep the damage extends. Dental x-rays are simple. You bite down on a special mouthpiece and listen to a "click" noise as the dentist captures the image.
Once your dentist has evaluated you, he or she will make recommendations for treatment. The treatment will depend on the depth and severity of your chip and crack. Here's a look at common options:
In the most severe cases when the pulp of your tooth is exposed and the crack is very deep, your dentist might recommend having the tooth extracted. In other words, the tooth will be removed from your mouth. If you're in a lot of pain from the cracked tooth, this might be done the same day so you can start the healing process. However, if you're not having a lot of pain from the crack, it can be put off for a few weeks if need be -- as long as you're careful with oral hygiene to avoid infections.
Once the tooth has been extracted, you dentist may recommend replacing it with a dental implant, which is an artificial tooth that's inserted directly into your jaw bone. If the teeth to either side of the missing tooth are healthy, you might be able to get a bridge (a false tooth that attaches to neighboring teeth) instead. In either case, this will be a later step that's carried out once you've healed from the extraction.
Root Canal and Crown
If the pulp has been compromised but the tooth is otherwise in decent shape, your dentist might recommend a root canal. In this procedure, the pulp of your tooth is removed and replaced with silicone. The tooth is then filled and covered with a metal or porcelain crown. While root canals have the reputation of being painful, they actually alleviate the pain you're probably experiencing from the cracked tooth. Your mouth will be numbed during the procedure. Usually, the root canal is carried out during one appointment, and a crown is applied a week or two later.
If the chip or crack is shallow and does not expose the deeper layers of your tooth, your dentist will probably treat it just as he or she would a cavity. Any damaged material will be removed with a drill, and then a composite resin or mercury amalgam will be inserted into the "hole." The dentist will then use a file to re-shape the filling to your natural tooth shape so you can bite down comfortably.
If you chip or crack a tooth, don't panic. Only in the worst of cases will you need to have the tooth removed, and even then, dental implants and bridges allow you to replace the tooth without too much pain or hassle. For more information and treatment options, contact a professional dental clinic, like Renovo Endodontic Studio.