Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Crowning a Cracked Tooth Can Save It

What is a cracked tooth?
It is a fracture that involves the entire tooth, from the chewing surface all the way down to the nerve. Such a fracture may or may not result in the tooth actually splitting. It does not matter in one sense, because a cracked tooth genuinely HURTS when you have one.

The most important thing to realize is that you have to do something. Teeth do not heal themselves the way bones do.

Crowning a cracked tooth or filling it with dental composite resin are the only two ways to really deal with the problem. In most cases, crowning a cracked tooth is the better option because this prevents the crack from spreading and worsening. It also prevents the tooth from splitting in two and keeps out bacteria that can cause infection.

Why do teeth crack?
You can get a cracked tooth from many different things. The pressure of daily biting and chewing is one of these. Another is the aging process. Chewing on something like ice or hard candy can also crack a tooth.

If you have had a root canal on a tooth, or if you have had a cavity in a tooth, your tooth may have lost sufficient mass to resist normal daily pressures and crack as a result. You can also suffer a fracture in your tooth enamel as the result of an accident.

Crowning a cracked tooth is generally the only option in the latter three examples because there is insufficient tooth mass for a filling alone to restore.

How do I know if I have a cracked tooth?
You will feel a sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures. Sometimes you may also feel a sensitivity to sweet or sour foods. You may also feel a sharp pain when you chew. An almost sure sign of a crack in your tooth is pain that comes and goes.

How can I be sure this has happened?
Come to our office and get a full dental examination. It is important that you seek professional help early on before the situation worsens. If the crack reaches the nerve and infects it, you are looking at a certain root canal and possibly even losing the tooth to extraction.

We will take x-rays and analyze your bite, so that we can conclusively diagnose the presence of a fracture and let us know if crowning your cracked tooth or simply repairing it with composite resin is the best way to go.

If we do recommend crowning a cracked tooth to a patient, there are three types of dental crowns we can use. There are gold crowns, porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns, and porcelain crowns.

It's important to evaluate and treat cracks as soon as possible because they can grow quickly. If a crack reaches the tooth's nerve, bacteria can infect the tooth, and root canal therapy may be required to save it. If the crack extends to the root, the tooth may need to be extracted.

Is crowning a cracked tooth necessary in every instance?
If it is only a hairline cracked, called a “craze line,” and if the dentist diagnoses it as harmless, no. You need a checkup, however, to determine this.

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