What to Do When You Have a Cracked Tooth

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You’re sitting in a dark theater, enjoying that glorious movie popcorn with extra butter. Suddenly, you feel a sharp pain and hear an ominous sound. You’ve bitten down on an unpopped kernel and have a cracked tooth. What do you do now? Fortunately, restorative dentistry can repair the damage and end your discomfort. 

At Lakewood Dental Group, Drs. Shaun Sigurdson and Mihil Patel offer effective, prompt care for cracked teeth, chipped teeth, and other dental emergencies. They always pursue conservative treatments first, saving damaged teeth whenever possible. That is one reason that it is so important to call our Dallas office as soon as dental damage occurs. We can also provide instructions for at-home care to limit damage and discomfort.  

If you are suffering from a cracked tooth or any other dental emergency, contact Lakewood Dental Group today

Chipped vs. Cracked Tooth

A chipped tooth is a less serious type of damage. Chips may only affect the outer surface of the tooth. If so, the chip will really be more of a cosmetic issue. Nonetheless, it is important to seek treatment, as chips could make your tooth more susceptible to future damage. In other cases, very large chips could expose the dental pulp. Without treatment, you will experience significant discomfort, especially in response to temperature changes. And you will face an increased risk of tooth decay.

Cracks are more extensive than chips. A true crack reaches the dental pulp and, in many cases, the tooth root, as well. Symptoms can include:

  • Intermittent pain, especially when chewing
  • Swelling in the nearby gum tissue
  • Temperature sensitivity

Without prompt attention, these symptoms will worsen. Moreover, the tooth could eventually split completely in two, at which point it cannot be saved. 

Cracked teeth do not always cause symptoms. That is why it is so important to schedule dental exams regularly and to choose a dentist who performs thorough checkups using the latest diagnostic technology.

What causes a chipped or cracked tooth?

Besides biting down on something hard, there are many other things that can lead to a broken tooth. Causes may include:

  • Facial trauma
  • Chronic teeth grinding (bruxism), which can weaken the teeth
  • Bad dental habits, like nail biting, chewing pencils, or using your teeth to open packages
  • Previous dental damage, such as a very large cavity
  • Age

Perhaps in response to the aging US population, cracked teeth are a growing problem. More patients suffer from this type of damage today than they did in 1964. According to one study, 66.1% of all patients had a cracked molar.

How to Care for Your Tooth before You Come into the Office

When you chip or crack a tooth, contact our office immediately to schedule a consultation. In the meantime, use ice packs on the outside of your mouth to minimize discomfort. Over-the-counter pain medications can be effective as well. You should also rinse with saltwater to destroy any bacteria.

If a piece of your tooth has come off, gather it up, when possible, and bring it with you to your dentist appointment. If you are not able to come into the office that same day, use dental cement to cover up the crack or chip. These products are available at your local drugstore. 

Treatment Options for a Cracked Tooth  

The treatment for your cracked tooth will depend on the location and extent of the damage. Dental crowns are one of the most common treatments. Dr. Sigurdson or Dr. Patel will reshape your tooth and place a new tooth-shaped cap on the top. Your dentist will take digital impressions to ensure a near-perfect fit and appearance. 

If the crack is larger and has reached the root of your tooth, root canal therapy may be necessary. Your dentist will need to clean the inside of your tooth and fortify your tooth roots. For a severely weakened tooth, Dr. Sigurdson or Dr. Patel may recommend post and core treatment in conjunction with root canal therapy. This step will allow your dentist to strengthen your tooth by placing a small metal post and then building up the inside of your tooth to better support a crown. 

As a last resort, your dentist may recommend extraction. Typically, this is necessary for split teeth or teeth with extensive structural damage. If you do require tooth removal, our team can provide state-of-the-art dental restorations, including implants. 

Treatment Options for a Chipped Tooth 

Again, your dentist will recommend different treatments for a chipped tooth, depending on the size and location of the chip. When you are dealing with a simple cosmetic issue on a front tooth, your dentist may recommend a porcelain veneer, which can cover up the damage. Dental bonding is an alternative to veneers, and it can also be appropriate for chipped molars. With bonding, Dr. Sigurdson or Dr. Patel can use composite resin to fill in the chip and repair a broken tooth cusp.

If you have a very large chip and exposed dental pulp, your dentist may perform the same treatments that he would for a cracked tooth. Dental crowns can be especially beneficial. Chipped teeth rarely need to be extracted.

Preventing Cracked Teeth 

Of course, the best treatment for a broken tooth is to prevent cracks and chips in the first place. Since decay can increase your risk for dental damage, practice good dental hygiene by brushing and flossing daily. Be sure to visit your dentist biannually for exams and cleanings. 

Chronic teeth grinding can put tremendous pressure on your teeth. This can erode your enamel, create tiny cracks called craze lines, and generally weaken your teeth. A custom-made mouth guard can prevent grinding and damage. 

You may be surprised to learn that stress management can also help prevent broken teeth. Stress is a major contributor to bruxism. In fact, according to a 2021 poll, 63% of dentists saw an increase in stress-related cracks and chips since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic

Finally, if you play contact sports, be sure to wear an athletic mouthguard. You can purchase pre-made appliances at the drugstore. But these often fit poorly and can even interfere with breathing. A custom-made mouthguard from your dentist will be more comfortable and will better protect your teeth.

Contact Us for Restorative and Emergency Care

Don’t delay treatment that could save your tooth! Contact our Dallas office today for outstanding care. 
You can make an appointment online or call us at 214-827-1885.