Cosmetic Dentistry Blog Cosmetic and General Dentistry Questions Answered

May 3, 2018

Whose fault is it that this tooth broke off?

Filed under: Fractured teeth — Tags: , , , , — mesasmiles @ 9:41 am

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Dr. Hall,
I had a crown put on tooth #7 (right lateral incisor) about 40 years ago but no root canal. My dentist said I now need a root canal on that tooth due to decay under the crown. I’ve had no pain, abscess or any indication of infection. The dentist attempted a root canal through the back of the crown and after 2 hours he gave up and said the canal is calcified and he is unable to locate it. He put a temporary filling in the crown and said I will need an endodontic specialist to perform the root canal. Because I am not in pain, the endodontist booked me an appointment 4 weeks out. Well it’s been 2 weeks and now my crown (with some tooth inside) has broken off and I don’t know what to do. I’m elderly and can’t spend a fortune on this tooth issue when it probably should have been left alone in the first place. Should I just get an implant? Attempt a root canal? I doubt there is enough tooth left to put a new crown on even if the root canal is successful. I bought some DenTek at the drug store today and can reattach the crown myself. I would greatly appreciate your perspective on this.
Ruth

Ruth,
I’m going to start by trying to answer a question that you were too polite to ask: Whose fault is it that this tooth broke off?

Your dentist was drilling inside this tooth for two hours looking for the root canal and not finding it. It’s hard not to believe that doing so seriously weakened the tooth and is the reason it broke off. And having done that, he didn’t pass that information on to the endodontist or do anything in the meantime to strengthen the tooth. Hopefully he has learned a lesson from this, but meanwhile you are victimized here. It seems reasonable to me that he should accept some of the responsibility for the fix you are in.

With there being decay under the crown, the logical way to proceed here would seem to me to be to take the old crown off (it will have to be replaced anyway), get rid of the decay, and then finding the canal would be much easier. If the tooth really got infected, then the decay penetrated into the canal. But even if it didn’t, having the crown off greatly increases visibility and access.

Meanwhile, to answer the question you actually asked, if the tooth is down to a stump then yes, it may be difficult to put a crown on it and you could lose the tooth and need an implant. However, if your bite isn’t particularly stressful, the right kind of dental post in the tooth could enable it to hold a crown, even if there isn’t much of the tooth left. But after the fiasco you’ve been through, I’m doubtful that your current family dentist has enough expertise to pull that off. The placement of the post or posts would need to be done in such a way as to brace the restoration against rotational forces, and that can be tricky. Posts are round and lateral incisors are kind of round in cross section, and it doesn’t take much twisting force to loosen a crown and post in this situation.
– Dr. Hall

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About David A. Hall

Dr. David Hall was one of the first 40 accredited cosmetic dentists in the world. He practiced cosmetic dentistry in Iowa, and in 1990 earned his accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is now president of Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona that does complete Internet marketing for dentists.

August 1, 2016

Can broken-off teeth be restored?


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Dr. Hall,
My husband has 2 front teeth that are broken off. The roots are intact. Other than a partial plate or a bridge is it possible to have root canals and caps?
– Jen from Ontario

Jen,

Yes, it may be possible to save a front tooth that is broken off, by doing a root canal, putting a post in that root canal, and putting a crown [cap] on the post, if there isn’t too much of the tooth broken off. It depends on the kind of bite your husband has. And it depends on the attitude of the dentist. Many dentists, I can tell you, may not want to attempt that. And recently, as dental implants have become more reliable and more popular, there may be less tendency of dentists to want to try to save teeth like this.

The mechanics of fixing a front tooth like this are tricky. A lot of dentists won’t realize that the main force working against them is a rotational force on the tooth. The front teeth are kind of roundish at the root. Then if the dentist puts a round post into the root, the resultant restoration doesn’t offer much resistance to rotational forces. Over time, then, those rotational forces can work the post loose. A way to brace against those rotational forces is to put two posts into the root.

Another problem that many dentists may not realize about this situation is that the post can end up cracking the root. There is a tendency to think that a rigid post would be stronger, and it may be stronger. But when tipping forces occur against the root, a rigid post will transfer those forces to deep inside the root where the tooth is thinner and they can crack the root. So flexible posts, such as carbon fiber or fiberglass posts should be used on front teeth.

Dr. Hall

Do you have a comment or a question or anything else to add? We’d love to hear from you. Enter your comment below.

Click here to ask Dr. Hall a question of your own.

About David A. Hall

Dr. David Hall was one of the first 40 accredited cosmetic dentists in the world. He practiced cosmetic dentistry in Iowa, and in 1990 earned his accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is now president of Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona that does complete Internet marketing for dentists.

March 4, 2016

Fixing a broken front tooth on a 7-year-old

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Dr. Hall,
When I was about 7, I slipped on a monkey bar and it cracked and chipped my right upper front tooth. I didn’t get it fixed right away, but a couple of years later the dentist did a root canal and I also had it filled to kind of match my other front tooth. But now it looks horrible because it’s smaller than my other tooth and it’s discoloring. Would there be a way for my smaller discolored tooth to match my bigger front tooth? And to get rid of the discoloration?
– Vance in Arizona

Vance,
This could be a real problem, if you ask your family dentist to do this. But if you go to an expert cosmetic dentist, such as the ones I recommend on this website, it’s a fairly straightforward case that should require a single all-porcelain crown.

Many cosmetic dentists, me included, won’t recommend doing a porcelain crown on a patient in their teens or younger because often the tooth hasn’t fully erupted. If the tooth continues to erupt after the crown has been placed, the margin ends up very visible, which is not good. So they will repair the tooth with composite, if that is an option, and then do the crown in the patient’s late teens or maybe a little later. And since a composite filling isn’t as strong as a crown, making it a little smaller can keep the composite from breaking.

One problem, though, with composite on the front tooth is that it can be susceptible to staining. An expert cosmetic dentist will have a selection of highly stain-resistant composites to use, but most dentists will just stock all-purpose composites. And then, the tooth itself is subject to discoloration once it has had a root canal treatment.

Here is a photo. discolored front toothThis isn’t Vance, but is a photo of another patient who has had a root canal treatment on a front tooth and a composite repair, similar to what Vance would have had. The composite covers about 1/3 of the tooth, consisting of the lower left corner as we are looking at it. You can see that the composite, while it is lighter than the rest of the tooth, is darker than the adjacent tooth. So the composite has discolored some, and the tooth has discolored more.

When a front tooth has a root canal treatment, it also tends to become more brittle over time and more prone to breaking. Doing a crown on such a tooth will actually weaken it more against lateral stresses, which are the types of stresses to which front teeth are most susceptible. So it is wise to put a post in the tooth to strengthen it. A metal post can show through slightly. An expert cosmetic dentist would use a white or translucent fiberglass post. A general family dentist also would probably jump right in and do the crown, but an expert cosmetic dentist would probably want to bleach the tooth first because the darker tooth structure would have to be blocked out making it more opaque than the adjacent tooth, when you want these two front teeth to look exactly the same.

Done correctly, the dentist should get a perfect match with the adjacent natural tooth. It will likely take several try-in appointments to get the color match perfect, and it will require teamwork between the dentist and the ceramist to do this. The tendency of family dentists is to get the color “close enough” and be satisfied with that. But here is a photograph of a case done by one of our mynewsmile network dentists. One of these front four teeth is a porcelain crown, but it is impossible to tell, from the front, which one.

porcelain crown on a front tooth

My recommendation—go to one of our recommended cosmetic dentists and get this done right.

– Dr. Hall

Do you have a comment? We’d love to hear from you. Enter your comment below.

Click here to ask Dr. Hall a question of your own.

About David A. Hall

Dr. David Hall was one of the first 40 accredited cosmetic dentists in the world. He practiced cosmetic dentistry in Iowa, and in 1990 earned his accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is now president of Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona that does complete Internet marketing for dentists.

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