As we transition to the new normal in a world with covid-19, I have found that the #1 cause of emergencies in my Sunnyvale dental office are fractured teeth. I've blogged about how stress can cause dental emergencies, such as broken teeth or root canals. In cases of teeth with large chips or fractures, crowns are recommended to preserve the teeth and keep them functional, healthy, and serviceable.
Many of our patients understand the importance of getting crowns to protect their teeth and are proactive about preserving their teeth, but I wanted to talk briefly about what happens if you don't get a crown.
Crowns protect your teeth from further damage.
Teeth with large existing fillings, fractures, or large cavities may not be able to withstand the forces exerted when chewing. Delaying recommended treatment compromises your teeth and puts them at increased risk of fracturing. When you have a tooth with an existing fracture or a large cavity, the integrity of the tooth is compromised. By "capping" your tooth structure, crowns can protect your teeth from further damage.
Crowns can keep your tooth serviceable for many years.
I am happy to help my patients in Sunnyvale save and care for their teeth. When fractured or decayed teeth are caught before the damage is too extensive, crowns can protect their teeth. In some situations, the extent of the fracture is so large that the tooth cannot be saved. One problem that dentists cannot help you fix is a vertical root fracture. This occurs when your tooth fractures in a way that it runs parallel to your root and extends below your bone level. When teeth have vertical root fractures, we need to think about ways to replace them.
Delaying recommended treatment may lead to unfavorable outcomes.
I had a patient come into my office because she chipped her tooth. The original fracture was between the filling and natural tooth structure. I explained my concerns regarding further fracture of the tooth and recommended a crown. I was concerned she would bite down and cause the tooth to fracture even further.
My patient returned 3 weeks later and mentioned that she noticed her tooth broke further. I took the pictures above at each of her appointments with me. The first picture was taken the day we met. If you look closely, you can see the fracture located between the filling and natural tooth structure.
The second and third photos, taken 3 weeks later, show the damage that occurred. At this point, a section of her tooth was missing, and another section of her tooth had fractured so badly that it was moving. This fracture extended vertically beneath her bone level.
As mentioned before, dentists can't save teeth with vertical root fractures. Unfortunately, this patient will need her tooth replaced with an implant and an implant crown.
Be proactive. Visit your Sunnyvale dentist to help protect and save your teeth.
If you've noticed a filling or tooth that has chipped recently, schedule an appointment for yourself in our Sunnyvale office. We can discuss ways to help you protect and save your teeth. The solution may be as simple as a nightguard, or your situation may require a crown to avoid an emergency visit.
How can your Sunnyvale dentist help you if you've been affected by stress?
The most frequently occurring dental emergency we've seen these past few months is cracked teeth. In Sunnyvale and around the Bay Area, our patients are working from home, and it seems like they're working harder than ever. In our earlier post about bruxism, I talked a bit about side effects of and treatment for bruxism. I wanted to show you some photos from a patient we saw recently who had history of teeth grinding (bruxism).
This patient emailed us and scheduled an appointment for "pain on the left side", but he wasn't sure exactly where it was. He just knew that he had a constant toothache that seemingly came out of the blue, and he figured he needed to visit the dentist.
Teeth grinding can cause a dental emergency.
When we brought him in for his emergency appointment, we saw a tiny crack extending from his existing filling to the edge of his tooth. This same tooth was the culprit of his pain and discomfort.
Increased stress and bruxism during this time led to a cracked tooth. Bacteria traveled through the crack and into the nerve of the tooth. Our patient was able to feel immediate relief after visiting us by electing to start a root canal. A few appointments later, and he has a brand new crown to protect his root canal treated tooth. He is now able to chew and eat normally without any pain.
Check the photos below to see the extent of the cracked tooth. This is how stress can lead to a root canal. Who knew that a tiny crack could spread and cause such problems?
In the first photo, you can see a crack forming on the patient's tooth. In the second and third photos, we are able to see how the crack (dark brown line) spread underneath the filling to the pulp of the tooth. Bacteria was able to travel through the crack to the pulp, thus leading to a toothache.
Visit your Sunnyvale dentist to discuss ways to prevent and avoid dental emergencies.
As we talked about in my previous post, preventive dentistry can help save you money and help you avoid problems. If you have a nightguard that you don't wear, now's a good time to start wearing it regularly. If you have history of bruxism or if you're concerned about clenching/grinding your teeth, please schedule a visit to our office so that we can help you avoid being in the same situation as our emergency patient.
Do you clench and grind your teeth? Are your teeth sensitive?
We've received quite a few phone calls from emergency patients these past few weeks. An overwhelming majority of our calls have the same issues - patients have been fracturing their teeth. Furthermore, they notice their jaws hurt and their teeth are sore when they wake up in the mornings.
As we’re entering our seventh (!!!) week of sheltering in place in Sunnyvale, I’m noticing that a lot of our patients are under high amounts of stress. Many of them are grinding or clenching their teeth (many times without realizing it). The term we use when referring to teeth grinding is bruxism.
Bruxism is a term for the involuntary and unconscious clenching and grinding of your teeth that occurs either when you are awake or asleep. It is often associated with stress, fatigue, anxiety, or caffeine/alcohol use during the day. Most people who exhibit this behavior are completely unaware of it.
Common effects of bruxism include:
As dentists, we are able to diagnose and discover if you have bruxism through a visual exam. There will be noticeable wear patterns on the chewing surfaces of your teeth. As we’ve seen recently, there may also be damage in the form of chipped or fractured teeth.
If you are a patient who is experiencing bruxism or the symptoms from it, we can make you a custom fitted night guard. These night guards are worn on your upper teeth when you sleep and work by redistributing the unwanted forces from clenching and grinding. Early intervention will lead to longevity of your teeth and oral health. Prevention costs less than treatment.
Across Sunnyvale and the Bay Area, we’ve been sheltering in place, and I’ll admit - this is new for me! For some of our patients in Sunnyvale, it’s business as usual, except they've been working from home rather than the office. Others, including ourselves, have had to make major changes to their routines. I’ve loved reading everyone’s tips on how to use this time to keep routine schedules and to do meaningful things, and I wanted to chime in with tips of my own.
As we do our part to #flattenthecurve, many patients have reached out to ask - what can they do at home to avoid dental emergencies?
We are here for you, your families, and our Sunnyvale community during these unexpected times. We remain as reachable and committed to you and your oral health as before - we are available via email and text (in addition to traditional phone calls). We are also available for teledentistry consultations to help you with your concerns. If you have any questions, please reach out to our office.
Good luck sheltering in place, and stay healthy. We’ll see you soon!