You are enjoying a delicious handful of sugar-coated peanuts...actually, a second handful that you almost passed up. You bite down and hear a loud crunch, which just did not seem right. Your tongue makes a pulse-spiking discovery -- a significant chunk of your upper left molar fractured, and the piece has already disappeared into the abyss.
While panic threatens to ruin your day, the chances are high that your broken tooth will continue to function for years. Teeth, the hardest substance in our bodies, undergo tremendous amount of stress everyday. This rigid, crystal structure often develops small cracks due to chewing, grinding, and especially those that are filled with metal many years ago. Thousands of chewing cycles combined with rapid changes in temperature from food and drink creates micro-fractures and internal stresses that ultimately weaken the tooth to the point of breakage.
Bound To Happen
It is easy to blame the peanuts, but they are just the final straw. While some teeth fracture from a single traumatic event, cumulative stresses usually lead to compromised enamel. A soft peanut butter sandwich may even be the culprit if a tooth reaches its breaking point. Most broken teeth do not need removal, and most of them do not need a root canal. A broken tooth may first feel cold sensitive and sharp to the tongue, but healthy function is often just an appointment away.
Drs. Cohen and Patel can assess the extent of the damage and the integrity of the remaining tooth. When we consider the options to preserve even one broken tooth, we use a conservative philosophy in our approach. Modern dental materials allow us to return teeth to full strength easier than ever before.
Our philosophy is it is best to be proactive and treat a weakened tooth before the traumatic fracture occurs. This ultimately will result in a more conservative and less expensive outcome. Through photographs, we can show you which teeth are at risk and what options you have to preserve your teeth and lead to a healthy and strong dentition.
Should I Fix It?
Leaving a broken tooth untreated is an option, but not without serious risk. Ultimately, the danger of losing the tooth runs much higher than if you commit to preserving it. More of the tooth may break away or a cavity may form in the exposed area. Every traumatic event a tooth experiences puts more strain on the fragile nerve inside, making an abscess more likely.
While fractured teeth may need to be fully “capped” with a dental crown, onlays repair many smaller fractures and bring them back to health. A crown requires a little more tooth preparation, while onlays allow the unbroken portions of a tooth to remain uncut. A custom piece of porcelain, like a partial crown, bonds into the damaged area. In this way, it “lays on” the damaged areas while leaving the rest of the tooth intact.
Onlays blend seamlessly with the natural enamel and enhance both function and appearance. When the most conservative option fits your treatment plan, Drs. Cohen and Patel may suggest an onlay for ultimate restoration. Schedule today for a tour of your mouth, and you will be grabbing a handful of peanuts again before you know it.