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.

April 4, 2012

What treatment is needed for a calcified root canal?

Hi Dr Hall,
First of all I appreciate the good work that you are doing.
Regarding my question: my daughter had yellow staining on her right front tooth. The doc did an x-ray and said the root canal is getting calcified and suggested a root canal. After the root canal we suggested to leave it as such but he said the tooth would fracture and a crown is a must. The crown he suggested was LAVA. We were not happy with the finish so we are trying an e.max or perhaps a metal-free ceramic. To push us to decide fast he frightened us that the gums are falling down. But I am happy I did not go with a badly made crown. I would like to know whether I have been taken for a ride and two which is the best crown to use? My gratitude for your enlightening blog I shall recommend to all my colleagues. My prayers and God Bless
– Bransdon from India

Bransdon,
I’m glad to be able to help.

First of all, I’m not sure why your daughter needs a root canal on this tooth. Just because the canal is getting calcified? As long as it’s not infected, she doesn’t need a root canal treatment. Calcification of a root canal is just the depositing of extra dentin inside the tooth. It  can happen after a traumatic injury – it’s the tooth’s attempt to protect itself against infection of the canal. Also, all teeth tend to have their canals get a little calcified as we get older.

Second, even if she has a root canal treatment, she doesn’t necessarily need a crown on this front tooth. While a back tooth that has had a root canal treatment will be prone to fracture if it doesn’t have a crown, a crown on a front tooth with a root canal treatment will weaken the neck of the tooth. A back tooth has a chewing surface. Chewing pressure on this surface will tend to push apart the cusps of the tooth, possibly causing it to split. But if a front tooth breaks, it tends to break around the neck of the tooth, and it just breaks off entirely at that point rather than splitting as back teeth do.

The Lava crown and the e.max crown are very similar to each other. They both have a very strong lithium disilicate base overlaid with a feldspathic porcelain, but they are made by different companies. They are a good crown for dentists who aren’t very good at cosmetic dentistry procedures, but they require aggressive tooth reduction, which will further weaken this tooth.

In India, you have to be very careful with getting crowns or any type of complicated dental care. I’m not all that familiar with their standards there, but I know they aren’t as high as they are here in the United States. But the best thing to do for a front tooth that does not have a large filling, which sounds like it is your daughter’s situation, is, after the root canal treatment (if it needs that), to then have a translucent fiberglass post placed to strengthen the tooth. Before placing the post, all of the root canal cement and root canal filling materials should be cleaned out from the inside of the visible part of the tooth – this will help insure against discoloration. If the color is off, I would have that fixed with a thin porcelain veneer. That will help the tooth retain its maximum strength. And I would try to seek out a dentist who is somewhat familiar with cosmetic dentistry procedures. There are dentists in India who are members of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and I would seek out one of those. (You can go to the AACD website and pull up a membership list.)

I do not recommend, in the United States, relying on membership in the AACD for any type of assurance that a dentist will do good cosmetic dental work. But in India, it does show a strong level of commitment to cosmetic dentistry to be willing to fly to the United States to learn these procedures.

– 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.

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