Definition & Overview

Cracked tooth repair is a dental procedure performed to restore cracked, chipped, or broken tooth. The teeth are very durable but if they’re not properly cared for, the outer covering (enamel) can weaken over time, increasing the risk of breakage that can be further aggravated by tooth decay.

Dentists use different methods in restoring broken teeth, with some procedures requiring just one visit and some taking several. Options include dental filling or bonding (ideal for minor chips on the tooth enamel) and the use of dental crowns (to save teeth that suffered from large cracks or major decay).

For teeth that are more visible, such as the front teeth, a more natural-looking option called dental veneers is ideal. Veneers are designed to resemble natural teeth and are hardly noticeable once bonded to the affected tooth. Another option is a root canal, which is used when the crack is too big that the tooth root is exposed. This procedure helps prevent bacteria from getting into the exposed root and causing an infection.

Who Should Undergo & Expected Results

Cracked tooth repair is for individuals who have cracked teeth due to:

  • Pressure from tooth grinding
  • Pressure from chewing something hard
  • Wear and tear
  • Large fillings
  • Gum disease
  • Trauma affecting the chin or lower jaw
  • Frequent temperature changes inside the mouth

To determine if a person has a cracked tooth, the following symptoms may be observed:

  • Pain when pressure is placed on the teeth, such as when chewing or biting
  • Tooth sensitivity to cold and hot beverages and food
  • Discomfort when eating sweet food
  • Swollen or inflamed gums

A tooth can crack in many different ways, but whether the crack is big or small, it requires medical attention. If left untreated, a cracked tooth can split in half. In such cases, there is no other treatment option but to extract the tooth and look for tooth replacement options. But if a cracked tooth is promptly repaired and the procedure is successful, the repaired tooth can work normally for several years.

Thus, it is best to consult a dentist as soon as the problem occurs or is detected, regardless of how mild or severe it may seem. In more severe cases, the crack can begin at the top of the tooth and go all the way down to the root. In milder cases, the crack may cause thin and tiny lines on the surface of the enamel. In moderate cases, the cusp, which is the pointed part of the teeth, can crack. All the same, if the condition is brought to the attention of a dentist at the soonest possible time, there are more treatment options to consider. However, if it is left to worsen for a long time, treatment may require more challenging procedures such as root canal or tooth extraction.

How Does the Procedure Work?

A cracked tooth can be repaired using different methods based on the extent of the damage, the location of the affected tooth, and the overall oral health condition of the patient. The most common options are:

  • Dental crowns or caps - The procedure of placing a dental crown or a cap over a damaged tooth typically takes more than just one visit. It starts with the dentist performing an x-ray to view the roots and bone of the affected tooth. Once these are deemed healthy enough to withstand the procedure, the tooth will be numbed and a portion of it will be removed to make space for the crown. The dentist will then take impressions of the tooth to use as a guide for making the dental crown, which will be cemented in place on the next visit. Crowns or caps can be made using different materials including porcelain, metal, ceramic, and resin, with each material presenting its own share of advantages and disadvantages. Porcelain crowns and caps are also usually fused with metal to make them more durable. The strongest crowns, however, are made from all-metal materials, although they tend to be very obvious when placed.

  • Dental veneers – Just like dental crowns, veneers are made based on the impression of the patient’s teeth, which is typically obtain during the first visit. The dentist will attach the veneers to the tooth a few weeks after. In placing the veneer, the dentist will roughen the surface of the tooth using a type of liquid so that the veneer will easily stick to the tooth surface. Also, a special type of cement will be used to attach the veneers permanently.

  • Dental filling or bonding - For cases that are not severe, dental filling or bonding is typically used. During a bonding procedure, no anesthesia is required, and the dentist simply uses a type of liquid or gel to make the surface of the tooth rough. The bonding material, which will be shaped to look like a natural tooth, will then be placed on the tooth. Lastly, ultraviolet light will be used to cure the adhesive that holds the bonding material in place.

Possible Complication and Risks

Before going in to have a cracked tooth repaired, it is important to have the right expectations about the procedure. These repair procedures do not fully treat cracked tooth. Although the treatment options that are available can keep a tooth useful for years, it is highly possible that the crack will come back after a few years. Each repair option also comes with its own possible complications and risks, which should be compared and carefully considered. However, the procedures' benefits far outweigh its possible complications and risks. If left untreated, cracked tooth can lead to other serious dental conditions that may require more challenging procedures such as tooth extraction. By then, the patient will require tooth replacement options, which include dental implants, bridges, and dentures.

Reference:

  • Academy of General Dentistry.
  • American Dental Association.
  • Amsterdam, AT. Oral medicine. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 70.
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