Dear Dr. Hall,
My wife has a tooth that has been sensitive for quite a while, and nothing the dentist did helped. It’s a lower molar, and has a large amalgam filling in it. Well, they just told us it is cracked, between the roots, and said that it has to be extracted.
Do you think there is a possibility of healing the crack? Or does the tooth have to be extracted?
– Loren in Iowa
I’d have to see the crack to tell you for sure, but from what you told me it sounds like the tooth could be saved. If the crack is in what we call the furcation–between the roots–and if the tooth hasn’t yet separated into two pieces. The problem would be getting a dentist who would be willing to try that. It would need a crown, and either a gold dental crown or a porcelain fused to metal crown. If the pieces haven’t separated yet, that would be all you would need to do. When they do separate, it becomes more complicated, but if you catch it within the first couple of days, I outline a procedure in my article, “Saving Fractured Teeth,” for getting them to knit back together.
Dentists are a very cautious bunch who rely a lot on the opinion of other dentists. I’m still waiting for another American dentist to take up my research and try to duplicate it. It usually takes several independent studies for a blockbuster idea like “you can actually save teeth with vertical cracks” to become accepted. It would take a dentist who is the pioneering sort and who would be willing to stick his or her neck out in the pursuit of truth. There aren’t many like that, unfortunately.
– Dr. Hall
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