If you’ve cracked or chipped your front tooth, you’ll most likely need to see your dentist, even if it’s not a dental emergency.
When you’ve damaged one of your front teeth, it’s not an easy thing to hide. It can be an obvious issue that shows itself to everyone you come across. It can also be challenging to hide from yourself if the crack or chip reaches painfully deep. Patients may break their teeth for several reasons, like grinding your teeth at night, biting into hard foods, and being hit directly in the face.
However, other factors can also put your teeth at risk for dental trauma. For example, patients with poor dental hygiene routines and dental decay may find themselves especially vulnerable to fractures and breaks. Dental caries weaken teeth by attacking the internal structures keeping them strong and healthy. You may also be susceptible to dental damage if you have misaligned teeth. When your smile or bite is crooked, your teeth can wear down quicker. The outer enamel protecting your tooth weakens.
Is A Broken Tooth An Emergency?
Not all dental trauma is made equal. Some cracks and chips put your tooth’s life in danger. Others are completely harmless. You may require emergency treatment for your fractured or chipped tooth if:
You have a toothache or severe broken tooth pain
The tooth has significantly broken, either exposing the inner tooth or leaving the tooth submerged below the gums
Sharp edges can cut your gums, tongue, or inner cheeks and lips
There is excessive bleeding
Even a seemingly minor cracked tooth can cause a painful toothache. Cracks can be thin but deep, extending far into the sensitive dental pulp at the tooth’s center. Not only can this directly harm your tooth’s integrity, but it can create a path for bacteria and decay to follow into your vulnerable inner tooth.
What Will A Dentist Do For A Broken Tooth?
Whenever patients make a dent in their front tooth, their first question is, “Can I leave a chipped tooth alone?” With some hairline fractures or incredibly minor chips, you may not need to have the tooth repaired for anything more than aesthetic restoration. More major damage should be seen by a professional to ensure your recovery goes smoothly and the results last years or even decades without complications.
However, no matter the severity of a tooth, you should never try fixing a broken tooth on your own. It’s not enough to look up “how to fix a chipped tooth” online and follow DIY instructions from Yahoo answers or a wikiHow article. It’s extremely challenging to understand the scope and severity of a tooth’s damage without a trained eye and professional experience. When patients try to fix their teeth, they often make things worse. At South Pasadena Dental, we have several cracked and chipped tooth repair options to restore your tooth depending on the level of damage:
Tooth Bonding or Porcelain Veneers
For breaks that don’t extend past the enamel, simple cosmetic dentistry procedures like tooth bonding and porcelain veneers can restore your tooth’s appearance. Bonding and veneers are incredibly flexible in tackling various aesthetic damage, not just fractures and breaks. For example, both treatments can also fix:
Dental stains and yellowing
Gaps between teeth
Misshapen and lumpy teeth
Teeth that are too long or too short
Wear and tear
Dental bonding uses composite resin to your enamel, allowing your cosmetic dentist to shape it and your tooth’s appearance. As composite is the same material used in dental fillings, we can fill in your tooth wherever necessary and match its color to the rest of your tooth. Veneers can take on more extensive damage by recreating your tooth’s look with a hard porcelain shell applied to the enamel. As porcelain is much sturdier and resistant to staining than composite, veneers usually last a decade or longer than bonding.
Once the damage is extensive enough to cover a significant portion of your front tooth, especially if it reaches the inner tooth below, you may need a dental crown. Crowns are dental caps that are shaped to behave and often look like a real tooth. They fit over what’s left of your tooth to restore its bite and function. If the tooth is infected, then the dental decay will need to be removed and the tooth disinfected before the crown is placed.
Most patients choose either an all-porcelain or porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crown for their front teeth. These restorations are designed to match the natural enamel of your tooth so that they look no different from your real tooth. They’re also quite dependable, allowing them to last an average of 15 years. With excellent maintenance and care, this can be prolonged an additional 10 to 15 years.
There are also base metal and gold crown options that are even more durable and can last 30 years to a lifetime, depending on the type of metal. However, these are not recommended for restoring front teeth because they are very noticeable. Most patients who choose these options to repair less visible back teeth that experience much more daily pressure and force.
If your break or fracture extends into the soft central dental pulp, then an endodontist will need to give you a root canal. The pulp is where your tooth’s blood vessels and nerves are, meaning damage here will be incredibly painful and potentially put your tooth’s life at risk. During a root canal procedure, we will remove the hurt or decayed parts of the pulp, which may extend down to the tip of the tooth’s root. Once the tooth is disinfected, it will be filled with a rubbery material called gutta-percha before we restore the tooth’s natural crown.
Do I have to get a crown after a root canal? A common misconception about root canals is that you have to get a tooth crown after the damaged dental tissues are removed. This isn’t strictly true. All teeth require reinforcement after being hollowed to ensure they stay protected against future infection or dental trauma. While this can be a crown for more wide-spread injury, many patients only require a dental filling.
When Should A Tooth Be Removed?
Depending on the severity of your tooth’s break, your dentist may need to have it removed. This can happen if exposed dental pulp has become badly infected or too much of the tooth is missing to save it successfully. If you find that your injured tooth doesn’t hurt anymore, it can be a sign that it has died. The only way to prevent further harm to your smile is to extract the tooth.
There are two types of tooth extraction: simple and surgical. Which one your dentist performs relies on whether the tooth is fully emerged from or submerged below the gums.
Our dentists can perform a simple extraction for front teeth that haven’t broken below the gum line. First, the tooth and surrounding areas will be numbed with a local anesthetic. Patients can also request to be dentally sedated to help keep their minds and bodies relaxed and comfortable.
We can then use a dental tool called an elevator to loosen it from the connective tissues keeping it secure. Once unmoored, our South Pasadena dentists can pull it free with dental forceps. The entire process can be completed in as little as 20 minutes, with 3 to 15 minutes required for each additional tooth.
When a broken tooth is submerged below the gums, you will need to have it surgically extracted. We can’t access the tooth to leverage it free. A small incision is made in the gums to expose it. From there, we can continue similarly to a simple removal. However, we may need to cut the tooth into smaller pieces. After the tooth is entirely gone, we will close the gums back up to help with the recovery process, which may require a stitch or two.
Is It Necessary To Replace Missing Teeth?
Once the tooth is removed, you’ll need to consider a proper replacement for it. Unfortunately, missing teeth gaps aren’t just aesthetic issues—they can create massive dental health problems too. The alveolar bone relies on the constant stimulation from your tooth. Without this pressure, the bone shrinks, and your jaw weakens in a process called bone resorption.
When patients choose not to fill in the tooth gap, nearby teeth will start moving out of alignment as they drift towards the growing socket. Your bite changes, and new gaps appear between your teeth. Some teeth may become loose and fall out. Those that don’t will still be more vulnerable to tooth decay and gum disease. With a false tooth, such as a bridge or partial denture, you can keep your teeth in place and your smile intact as they are. A dental implant goes even further to stop the resorption process before it can begin.