What to Do About a Cracked Tooth

What to Do About a Cracked Tooth

Accidents happen, which is why Dr. Kiran Rapal of Kiran Rapal, DDS Dental. in Saratoga, California, offers dental emergency services for her patients who need them. Here’s what she’d like you to know about what to do if you develop a cracked tooth.

What’s a dental emergency?

A dental emergency is any situation in which you require immediate help to preserve your teeth and/or gums. If you split a veneer or chip a small part of the tooth and aren’t in pain, you can most likely wait until the next day for an appointment and not suffer any ill effects. When you come in, Dr. Rapal may be able to smooth the chip, replace the veneer, or add composite filling material to repair and restore the tooth.

On the other hand, if your tooth has been knocked out, if your mouth is bleeding extensively, or if you’re in a great deal of pain, you need to see the dentist ASAP. In fact, if you have a knocked-out tooth, the window to get treatment that will save the tooth is only about 30-60 minutes; after that, Dr. Rapal may not be able to reimplant it successfully, and you’ll need restorative work such as an implant and crown.

What about a cracked tooth?

No, a crack isn’t a knocked-out tooth, but you should set up an emergency appointment, because it’s hard for you to tell how deep the damage might be. Deep cracks can extend from the crown into the root or from the tooth’s center to the pulp chamber, the sensitive inner tissue that contains the nerve, blood vessels, and connective tissue, requiring restorative work.

What should I do if I crack my tooth?

If you crack a tooth, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends you follow the steps below:

  1. Clean your mouth of blood and debris by gently rinsing thoroughly with warm water
  2. Apply a cold compress or ice pack to the area if there’s any swelling
  3. Take acetaminophen (not aspirin, which can thin the blood) for pain relief
  4. Don’t apply a painkiller (such as Orajel or Anbesol) to the gum because it can burn
  5. If you have a jagged edge, put some dental wax over it (available at drug stores)
  6. Get to the dentist as soon as you can

Dr. Rapal will need an X-ray to properly diagnose your tooth’s condition.

How do you treat a cracked tooth?

The specific treatment depends on the severity of the crack. If it’s mostly just a surface crack, or if you have a jagged edge, Dr. Rapal may either polish the surface or use dental bonding to fill in the gaps.

If the crack extends into the inner pulp, repair is absolutely necessary to prevent bacteria and food debris from leaking in and causing an infection. This requires a root canal procedure, and Dr. Rapal will send you to an endodontist to do it.

During the procedure, the endodontist removes the inflamed or infected pulp, cleans all the canals that extend into the root, and seals everything with a rubbery material called gutta-percha. Once that’s done, Dr. Rapal can fill the missing section, if enough of the tooth structure remains, or she can top the root canal with a dental crown.

Sometimes not even a root canal can save the tooth. A 2019 study found that the depth of the crack determined the likelihood of whether endodontists needed to extract the tooth. In the case of a split tooth, 98.48% chose to extract. Oral surgeons may also be required to perform the extraction if the gum needs to be incised to get at the lowest parts of the tooth.

If you have an extraction, though, Dr. Rapal can offer you a great restoration option — a dental implant. With a titanium screw implanted in your jawbone to act as an artificial “root,” and with a crown placed on top, the implant looks and functions just like your natural teeth.

If you’ve cracked your tooth, it’s important to get to the dentist quickly so the tooth can be saved, if possible. Give Dr. Rapal’s office a call at 408-864-7010 to let us know you’re coming in, or contact us online.

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