Although protected by the most resilient substance found within the human body, your teeth aren’t indestructible. In fact, teeth crack and break all the time, which begs the question, just how strong are they, really? The answer is “very strong” if you take proper care of them, meaning more than just brushing and flossing your teeth on occasion. Nevertheless, a broken tooth can affect patients of all ages, and can occur even in the midst of excellent dental health. Unlike your bones, fixing a broken tooth involves more than merely setting it and allowing it to heal. On the contrary, your teeth don’t repair themselves at all, and fixing your broken tooth requires the skills of an experienced restorative dentist.
The Anatomy of a Tooth
A tooth is comprised of two main parts, the crown and the root. As you might expect, a tooth’s root is buried underneath your gums, nestled within a socket in your jawbone. The tooth’s crown rests above the gum line, and is the only part of the tooth you should see. The crown is comprised of layers, beginning with the highly-mineralized enamel that surrounds and protects it. Underneath enamel lies dentin, the substance that makes up the majority of your tooth’s structure. When tooth enamel cracks, which is common, the issue is usually cosmetic, but if dentin cracks or breaks, then the nerves and blood vessels at the center of your tooth (the pulp) can be exposed to food debris and infectious bacteria.
Cracked or Broken?
A crack and a break are two different things. A crack describes a fracture in your tooth, usually beginning at the crown and extending towards the root. If a piece of your tooth breaks off, then it’s no longer just a crack. Treating a tooth typically depends on the nature and severity of the damage.
How to Fix a Broken Tooth
Fixing a broken tooth involves two main principles; clean the tooth to ensure it’s free of infectious bacteria, then restore the tooth (if possible) by placing a lifelike dental crown over it. A manmade dental crown mimics your tooth’s natural crown, and once it’s placed over the tooth, the dental crown can absorb your bite’s pressure and protect the tooth from further injury.
One of the more common complications involving damaged teeth is infection. Under normal circumstance, the bacteria in your mouth have to bypass your tooth enamel before reaching and infecting the dentin. If your tooth is cracked or broken, however, bacteria can more easily access the vulnerable tissues in your tooth’s pulp and cause a severe internal infection. Some patients may require root canal therapy to clean the tooth’s pulp and seal its roots before a crown can be placed over the tooth. On the other hand, some cracks and breaks may damage the tooth so severely that it can’t be saved and must be extracted.
If the Tooth is a Lost Cause
As advanced as modern dentistry is, there are still some situations where tooth loss or extraction is inevitable. If a tooth’s root cracks, then Dr. Fondriest won’t be able to restore it with a dental crown. If an internal infection destroys what remains of your health tooth structure and spreads through the tooth’s root canals, then the tooth may also require an extraction. If so, then Dr. Fondriest may recommend replacing the extracted tooth with a dental implant and crown. Together, the prosthetic tooth root and manmade crown create the most realistic replacement tooth, consisting of a root and crown just like your natural teeth.
Learn more about the options for fixing your broken tooth
Aside from providing expert family and cosmetic dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds highly-respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is a former Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff. To schedule your consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.
Our practice serves the Chicago metropolitan area including the North Shore and Northwest suburbs