Cosmetic Dentistry Blog Cosmetic and General Dentistry Questions Answered

August 29, 2016

Removing a metal post in a tooth


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Dr. Hall,
I just found out my dentist inserted a stainless steel post into my root canal tooth–my upper molar. A temporary crown is placed over it now and a permanent crown will be placed in a week. My question is can the post be removed and a zirconia or carbon post (I don’t think he does those) be put in instead? I don’t want steel in my mouth even though he said it’s encased. My ears have been pulsating since. Please tell me it’s removable!
– Linda from Brooklyn

Linda,
Yes, a stainless steel post probably can be removed, though there may be some risk involved.

Let me give a little background on this to frame my answer.

stainless steel dental post

A metal post in a lower molar

When a tooth is “bombed out,” needing a root canal treatment and with little tooth structure left, a dental post is often placed in the tooth. This post can serve a couple of purposes. For front teeth and premolars, it can strengthen the tooth against horizontal fracture. For molars and any other teeth, it can also provide additional retention for the crown. If there is little of the original natural crown of the tooth left, the post, anchored in the root of the tooth, will help retain a buildup in the tooth, and the buildup retains the crown.

There is a history to the material out of which the post is made. In the 1970s and earlier, stainless steel was the material of choice for prefabricated dental posts. However, in the 1980s it was discovered that even though a post is cemented inside the tooth and doesn’t come into contact with the bloodstream at all, metal ions were found to leach through the tooth and into the bloodstream. Stainless steel contains nickel, which causes sensitivity reactions in many people (see some of our blog posts on metal allergies). To guard against potential reactions as you seem to be experiencing, many dental practices, including mine, switched to titanium, which is not only very strong but the most biocompatible metal available. In the 1990s, other materials were introduced for posts, including carbon fiber and fiberglass. More recently, zirconia has been used for posts. Zirconia is a ceramic that has high flexural strength and is also very biocompatible.

So yes, you have a legitimate concern about this stainless steel post. Your dentist should get with current technology. From what you are telling me, he isn’t into any of these newer post materials, most of which have been around for twenty years or more.

Now, as to removing the post that is in there, that could be tricky and, depending on the situation, you may not want to trust your dentist to do this but may want to see a root canal specialist or another dentist who feels comfortable doing this. It depends on how deeply the post goes into the root of your tooth and how well it is cemented. It may be possible to dislodge it with an ultrasonic tip. I remember one patient I had who was adamant about removing several metal posts in his teeth. I don’t remember why his posts were so difficult to remove, but I ended up telling him that I had to drill out all of these posts and I had him sign a paper acknowledging that I had told him there were serious risks in doing this, that I could perforate the roots of any or all of these teeth, leading to the loss of the teeth. He was willing to accept those risks. The good news is that I got out all of the posts without any accidents, but I remember it was very stressful for me.

If you feel that you are experiencing a sensitivity reaction to the post, I would put a halt to the crown procedure until you can have the post removed. Cementing a crown on the tooth will only make it more difficult, as your dentist would have to start by drilling through the crown, possibly ruining the crown.

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.

October 26, 2015

The cheapest, easiest, fastest way to fix a front tooth that broke off at the gumline

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Dr. Hall,
I recently broke my front tooth off, right below the gumline. I am looking for the cheapest, easiest, fastest way to fix this. I am 100% against implants.
– Harley from Nebraska

Harley,
Are you really asking me this? I don’t think you really mean the question the way it came out.

For the cheapest, easiest, fastest way to fix your broken front tooth, go to Walmart, buy a tube of Superglue, and glue your tooth back in. Cheap, easy, fast.

Problem is, the repair will only last for a couple of days. But long-lasting wasn’t on your list of requirements.

Another solution, not as cheap but also easy and fast and, as a bonus, long-lasting, would be to have a dentist bond a glob of composite onto the broken part of the tooth, making a little mound. That would last a long time. It wouldn’t look very good, though, but looking good wasn’t on your list.

Let’s re-order your priorities and make it first, something that will look good, and second, something that will hold up long-term. To accomplish that, there are two options. And neither one is cheap, easy, or quick.

It could be possible to repair the tooth by placing a crown on the remaining root. But that would only work if there isn’t a lot of stress on this tooth. If you have a deep overbite or even just a strong bite, it would be hard to get the crown to stay on. But if you have a gentle bite, it could work. You would need to have a root canal treatment on the remnant of your tooth, then have a good, strong post that’s not completely rigid. Either a carbon fiber post or a fiberglass post would work. The stress on a front tooth is mostly lateral. If you have a rigid metal post going down into the root and then put stress on the crown of the tooth, that stress will transfer to the root through the post and tend to cause a root fracture. If the post has a little flexibility to it, however, it will not transfer stress to the root and thus not tend to fracture the root.

And better yet, I would place two posts side by side, to help resist rotational forces that would tend to weaken the bond to the tooth over time. All posts are perfectly round, so any twisting force on them will tend to dislodge them.

However, if there is any significant stress on this tooth, the only solution that will hold up over a long time would be replacing the tooth with a dental implant. This could cost twice as much as a root canal, posts, and crown, and would take substantially longer because of the healing time required. But it would look good and last much longer. Doing the crown first could have you ending up with the dental implant eventually because the crown would fail.

Bottom line—sometimes the cheapest dental solution is the most expensive, the quickest solution takes the longest, and the easiest solution is the most complicated. It’s generally best to just fix it right in the first place and then be done.

– 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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