Few things will bring a good time to a crashing halt faster than a broken tooth. Whether you're biting down on an unpopped kernel of popcorn at the movies or taking a high stick to the mouth during a pick-up game of street hockey, the sickening realization that a broken tooth is rolling around inside your mouth -- or even worse, on the ground -- is a pretty clear signal that the party's over. It's time to see the dentist because a broken tooth -- unlike a broken heart -- will not heal itself over time.
Teeth are incredibly strong but they are far from indestructible. Under a variety of conditions, you can end up with a broken, fractured or chipped tooth. External trauma is a leading cause of broken teeth. From chewing on the wrong thing (e.g., ice, hard candy, nuts, etc.), in the wrong way to literally falling on your face while showing off your skateboarding skills, there are countless ways to accidently end up with a broken tooth.
Internal forces can also wreak havoc with your smile. Many people don't realize that cavities can weaken teeth and lead to a broken tooth.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Broken Teeth
Sometimes it's very easy to know that you have the symptoms of a broken tooth. If there's an accident or some other trauma, you'll probably be able to identify the very second your tooth broke because that was the uncomfortable moment you realized there was a loose piece of tooth floating around in your mouth. This unsettling discovery is often accompanied by the sharp pain of a nerve going ballistic as it's exposed to air, saliva or hot/cold food or beverages. When you add one and one together the answer is a broken tooth.
The symptoms of broken teeth can be subtle, too. Teeth with minor fractures and chips don't always hurt -- at least not at first or all the time -- and when they do it's often maddeningly difficult to identify exactly which tooth has the problem. Many times a broken tooth will crop up as a hairline fracture or microscopic crack running vertically down the tooth. Though this kind of damage may be invisible to the naked eye and may not even appear in a dental X-ray, it can make its presence known in a variety of ways. These include sensitivity to extreme temperatures and sour or sticky food. Constant or sporadic mouth pain while chewing is another common symptom of a broken tooth.
Checklist of Broken Teeth Symptoms:
Whether you have a molar with a major fracture or a bicuspid with a seemingly minor crack, broken teeth typically hurt for the same reason: an irritated nerve. With a seriously fractured or broken tooth the pain is usually constant because the nerve is either damaged by trauma or continually exposed to irritants like air and saliva. With a moderately cracked tooth, the pain is likely to be intermittent because the nerve is only occasionally irritated. Often, the pain is related to eating because the pressure and release of chewing causes the crack to expand and quickly close. This action irritates the pulp or soft tissue within the tooth.
The amount of discomfort associated with a cracked tooth can vary according to the specific situation. Common broken teeth symptoms include:
In some instances, a cracked or fractured tooth can be challenging to diagnose because none of the classic symptoms of broken teeth are present. In these cases, dentists will use a variety of clinical aids, including dental X-rays, occlusal bite devices and cold water applications to locate the broken tooth.
Broken Teeth Symptoms Don’t Get Better Without Help
A broken tooth, unlike a broken bone, does not mend over time. The only way to permanently correct a broken tooth is to seek professional dental care. Time is of the essence because broken teeth --- even those with seemingly minor chips -- will only worsen over time without broken tooth repair.
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