Our teeth can outlive us! Enamel is the outer surface of teeth and is the hardest substance in the body. However, exposure to acidic foods and beverages can significantly weaken enamel and cause decay leading to a broken tooth. A fractured tooth is a painful dental emergency. It brings up concerns about comfort and eating if there is a missing tooth. Our front and back teeth contribute to our facial profile and the loss of a single tooth can change the face. Function and appearance can be significantly affected with each compromised tooth.
The causes of broken teeth include underlying decay, habits such as nail biting, or chewing ice. Sports related accidents, and trauma often result in fractured teeth. For those who clench or grind their teeth during the night, craze lines and chips can develop in the tooth structure over a period of time. A tooth that has undergone root canal treatment without a permanent restoration is also likely to break. Exposure to extreme temperatures like the combination of ice with hot foods can strain teeth, making them susceptible to fracture.
The depth of decay or fracture affects treatment options and symptoms. It is best to be proactive if there is any dental sensitivity. The pain level increases as the decay or fracture gets closer to the nerve of the tooth. Radiographs are necessary to determine the extent of the problem. If the decay or fracture only affects enamel, a filling may be done. If it involves the next inner layer known as dentin, a filling or crown can be done. Once the decay reaches the nerve, a root canal or extraction is necessary to prevent an infection.
The symptoms of a broken tooth include pain when biting and sensitivity to cold or hot foods. Someone can have a cracked or fractured tooth in the absence of these signs. It is important to get a dental checkup if tooth surfaces feel rough or sharp. A toothache does not resolve itself in the absence of intervention. However, with great dental care, a broken tooth can be restored to proper function and better esthetics.