What are the signs and symptoms of a broken tooth?
The symptoms after a tooth has broken can vary from no symptoms at all, to sensitivity and in some cases severe pain. It depends on the individual circumstance and may include:
- Sensitivity when drinking hot and cold drinks or when eating sweet, sour and sticky foods.
- Sharp edge can be felt where a piece of tooth has broken off, irritating the tongue and cheeks.
- Sometimes sharp pain is experienced on biting with no obvious broken piece of tooth. This may be a sign of an incomplete or internal crack within the tooth.
What causes teeth to break or crack?
- Failing fillings
Having a large filling means that the remaining tooth structure can be thin and weak, hence liable to fracture.
- Tooth Decay
If the decay becomes large enough, the weakened remaining tooth may break .Because tooth decay can often progress unnoticed by the patient, a broken tooth is often the first indication of active tooth decay.
- Underlying Grinding Or Clenching habit
Excessive pressure exerted onto teeth will cause internal stresses, which can result in cracked and broken teeth. A grinding or clenching habit, commonly occurs during sleep and the patient may be unaware of this problem.
- Chewing on very hard foods
Tooth enamel is very strong , but it is also brittle when exposed to heavy forces . This means that teeth can chip when exposed to very hard foods such as ice or hard sweets.
Direct injury from a blow to the face or fall can cause front teeth to fracture.
Chewing on pens ,opening bottles and such habits should be avoided.
How is a broken or cracked tooth treated?
Treatment is dependent on the severity and extent of the cracked or broken portion. A small crack may only require an adhesive filling (called composite) to be bonded onto the tooth.
In most cases where a larger portion of tooth has broken off, there is not enough remaining tooth structure to restore the tooth with a filling. Instead, a crown or onlay that either completely or partially caps the tooth is needed to protect the remaining tooth. These kinds of restorations are far stronger and more aesthetic than regular filling material and have a longer lifespan. In cases of severe fracture or decay where the nerve of the tooth has become exposed, a root canal treatment will be necessary followed by a crown. In other severe cases , the tooth may be deemed ‘unrestorable’ in which case an implant may be the treatment of choice.