COVID Is Cracking Teeth: How to Keep it from Happening to You

2020-12-02T16:11:03+00:00November 17th, 2020|Oral Health|

Cracked teeth are common. If a cracked tooth is left untreated, it can lead to physical ailments like severe pain, discomfort, and infection, not to mention a slew of mental health issues (e.g., stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, etc.). The most serious cases may even require the extraction of a tooth. 

While cracked teeth have always been common, they’ve become even more so in the COVID-19 era. Dentists across the country (and the world) have noticed a significant uptick in cases. Many dental offices are experiencing an increase of about 30% in cases, while others are exceeding a 500% increase on some days. That’s right, 500%! 

Let’s put that into perspective: If dental offices treated one fractured tooth per day before COVID came around (which was pretty normal), some of those offices are now seeing five cases each day. Whew, that’s a big change.

So, what’s behind the rise in cracked tooth cases? Below, we’ll answer this question and discuss the different types of cracked teeth, how to know when you should see your dentist, how you can prevent a cracked tooth from happening or worsening, and much more. 

 

WHY THERE ARE MORE CASES OF CRACKED TEETH 

No, COVID-19 doesn’t directly cause cracked teeth. However, the general rise in stress and anxiety brought about by the pandemic is considered by many medical experts to be the primary culprit for the uptick in cracked tooth cases. In short, when you’re stressed, you’re more likely to brux your teeth. Bruxism refers to the act of grinding or clenching your teeth, and over time, the pressure of bruxing can lead to cracked teeth, as well as muscle pain in the head and neck. 

There are numerous concerns that the average American is dealing with during these challenging times. Along with the fear of contracting the coronavirus (for themselves and/or their loved ones) and dealing with overarching medical issues, many people are navigating significant changes in their job demands, finances, and social lives. 

If it sounds like a reach to say that these stressors can lead to cracked teeth, keep in mind that bruxism was a common condition before the COVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head and that it’s only becoming more common. And a lot of people don’t realize when they are bruxing their teeth. Actually, some dental health professionals estimate that about half of their patients are unaware that they grind or clench their teeth. This is because most bruxing happens during sleep—when you’re not fully conscious and able to relax your muscles. 

Besides bruxism, there are other common causes of cracked teeth to be aware of. These include eating hard foods (e.g., nuts, hard candy, ice, etc.), getting large dental fillings that can weaken the integrity of a tooth, and subjecting your mouth to extreme temperature changes, such as burning your tongue with hot food or liquid and drinking ice water to cool it down. Also, physical trauma to the mouth—such as a sporting injury, automobile accident, or fall—can cause teeth to crack, as can age (most cases are in people 50 or over). 

 

THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF CRACKED TEETH 

According to the American Association of Endodontists (AAE), there are five types of tooth cracks/fractures, all of which vary in severity and treatment possibility/requirements:

  • Craze lines
  • Fractured cusp
  • Cracked tooth (extending to the gum line)
  • Split tooth
  • Vertical root fracture

Knowing about these different types can help you to better identify issues and determine what steps to take when you experience certain symptoms. Here’s a little detail on each type of cracked tooth:

Craze Lines

This is the most common and least severe type of cracked tooth. In fact, all teeth have craze lines, which are essentially micro-cracks in the enamel. Since these cracks don’t reach the dentin (the tissue beneath the enamel) or cause pain, no treatment is necessary. 

 

Fractured Cusp

Another type of cracked tooth that generally doesn’t cause pain is a fractured cusp. This typically occurs when a patient has a dental filling and the surrounding area of the tooth undergoes a small fracture. A fractured cusp doesn’t impact the pulp (the tooth’s center that holds the nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue), which is why it’s usually painless. In most cases, crowning can fix a fractured cusp. 

 

Cracked Tooth (Extending into the Gum Line)

When a tooth has a vertical crack all the way through but it doesn’t enter the gum line, it’s typically savable through bonding or crowning. But treatment options become murkier if the crack has extended into the gum line. At that point, it really depends on how far into the gum line the crack has grown. Consulting a dentist and acting quickly is the best way to save the tooth; if too much time passes, extraction may be necessary.

 

Split Tooth

Going a step further, a split tooth is when a crack has extended well into the gum line—enough to where the tooth can be divided into two segments. If you have a split tooth, chances are you will not be able to save the whole tooth, but your dentist might be able to preserve a portion of the tooth. Again, the faster you act, the better your chances are for avoiding extraction. 

 

Vertical Root Fracture

This is the most severe type of cracked tooth. A vertical root fracture grows upward, from below the gum line through the top of the tooth. The prognosis for a vertical root fracture is generally not good; in most cases, the entire tooth will need to be extracted. 

 

SYMPTOMS, DIAGNOSIS, AND TREATMENT 

Sometimes, people are not able to tell when they have a cracked tooth, particularly in the early stages. Obviously, this is unfortunate because it can hinder you from seeking treatment early on. But oftentimes, there will be symptoms, and it’s important to know what to look out for. 

For instance, if you notice a heightened sensitivity to temperatures or sweetness when eating or drinking, or if your gums are swollen around a particular tooth, it could be a sign of a cracked tooth. Also, if you experience pain while biting or chewing, it’s essential to get checked out by a dentist, even if the pain is inconsistent. Most pain from a cracked tooth comes with the release of biting pressure. 

When it comes to the diagnosis process, it can help to know what to expect. Though x-rays can reveal poor pulp health (which can indicate a crack), they often don’t actually show cracks in teeth. Therefore, your dentist is likely to take several other steps to get to the bottom of things, such as:

  • Going over your dental history (do you regularly eat hard foods or clench/grind your teeth?)
  • Using a magnifying lens to examine your teeth for cracks. 
  • Using a dental explorer on your teeth to feel for cracks. 
  • Applying dental dye, which can reveal cracks. 
  • Asking you to bite down on something in order to pinpoint the pain. 
  • Examining your gums for inflammation. 

 

There are four primary forms of treatments for a cracked tooth. The one that is best for you will depend on the crack’s location and the extent of the damage wrought:

Bonding. In mild cases, a dentist can use bonding to fix a cracked tooth. This process includes applying a plastic resin to fill the crack, which can help the tooth to look and function like normal for years to come. 

Crowning. Porcelain or ceramic crowns are used to either fit over or cap a cracked tooth. To make this prosthetic device, your dentist will probably need to make an impression of your tooth and send it off to a lab that will manufacture the crown. The dentist will also need to take a little enamel off of your tooth so that the crown will fit properly. 

Once the crown comes back from the lab (usually in a couple of weeks), the dentist will fit the crown over your tooth and use cement to permanently bond it. Crowns can last a lifetime when taken care of properly. 

Performing a root canal. If your tooth crack has reached the pulp of your tooth, you may be advised to get a root canal. This procedure is typically performed by a dentist, oral surgeon, or endodontist, and it involves the removal of damaged pulp. By reestablishing some integrity in the tooth, a root canal can help you avoid further weakening or infection. 

Extracting. This is the last resort. But when a tooth crack is severe enough, removing the tooth can help you prevent a whole host of other health problems. Your dentist might recommend extraction if there is simply too much damage done to the tooth’s structure, nerves, and roots. 

 

HOW TO PREVENT BRUXISM 

So, now that you know that bruxism is the leading cause of cracked teeth, how do you keep yourself from grinding and clenching your teeth? Well, there are some practical steps you can take each day to prevent bruxism or at least mitigate its effects. 

For example, incorporate stress-reducing activities into your routine, such as exercise, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, and/or massage. Try to maintain proper posture when sitting (especially while working), as an aligned spine and relaxed jaw can reduce clenching. Be aware of how you’re holding your jaw during the day; remember that your teeth should not be touching unless you’re eating or speaking. 

If you notice your teeth clenching, start placing your tongue between your teeth. The sensitivity of your tongue will encourage you to stop clenching. When it comes to bruxing during sleep, which is when it most often happens, look into products that can help. For instance, wearing a night guard can prevent your teeth from touching, even if you’re subconsciously grinding and clenching. And research the various customized pillows and neck positioners on the market that can relieve stress and pressure from your jaws and neck during sleep. 

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF GOING TO THE DENTIST

If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, or if anyone else in your life notices that you’re bruxing your teeth, it’s essential to contact your dentist right away. The quicker you respond, the greater the chances that you will be able to fix the problem before it gets to the point of extraction. Dental offices across the country, including Adam Brown Dentistry, are taking painstaking precautions to keep patients and staff members safe during the pandemic, so don’t hesitate to make an appointment today!

 

PRACTICING DENTAL HYGIENE AT HOME

Finally, as with any other dental/oral health issue, one of the best ways to prevent cracked teeth is to practice daily dental hygiene. Be sure to brush twice a day, floss once a day, and use mouthwash regularly. Also, be conscious of your diet, as the foods and drinks you consume can have a significant impact on your dental health. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly affected the lives of countless Americans in many ways—one being that more people are experiencing cracked teeth. Continue to practice good dental hygiene each day, take any necessary steps to prevent bruxism, and be on the lookout for any symptoms that could indicate a cracked tooth. And of course, call Adam Brown Dentistry today to schedule an appointment!

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The History Of Dental Crowns: From Gold To Porcelain

2021-02-05T18:06:15+00:00April 30th, 2018|Dental Crowns|

At Carolina’s Dental Choice, our goal is to make sure that you have a happy, healthy, and beautiful smile. To do that, many patients need a crown to cover one of their teeth but they aren’t exactly sure what the purpose of the crown is or what the procedure entails. Don’t worry; we can answer any questions you have about dental crowns and provide you with a little more information on the history of crowns.

First things first: What is a crown? A crown is essentially a cap that covers a tooth. Crowns are placed over a tooth to improve its shape, size, strength, and even help its appearance. A dental crown can be needed for many reasons, such as:

  • Protecting a Tooth – If a tooth is cracked or even decaying, a crown can protect a weak tooth from further damage.
  • Restoring a Tooth – A broken tooth needs a crown to restore the functionality of the tooth.
  • Covering a Filling – Sometimes, if a tooth has a large filling and there is not a lot of tooth left, a crown will be used to cover and support the tooth and filling.
  • Holding a Dental Bridge in Place – A dental bridge is something that dentists use to bridge a gap between teeth when a tooth is missing. A crown may be used to cover this gap.

Dental crowns actually have a very interesting history that dates back thousands of years. Four thousand years ago, Luzon, an island in the Philippines, gold was used to modify teeth. Skeletons have been found with gold caps and gold tooth replacements. Evidence suggests that this practice was popular with the chiefs of the time and was a symbol of wealth and power in society. An ancient Italian civilization, the Etruscans, have also been discovered as using gold for dental crowns as far back as 700 B.C. It is thought that wealth and luxury were important to these people and they put gold dental crowns to cover their teeth. Some skeletons were also found with what are essentially the first dental bridges: artificial teeth were held in place with a gold wire which then banded the fake teeth to real teeth. Pretty cool!

Europeans didn’t start utilizing modern dental practices until around the 1400s. They started by carving dentures from bone or ivory and around the 1700s, human teeth were actually the most popular tooth replacement. But this practice did not work well so it quickly fell out of practice. Porcelain dentures became the most successful way to replace teeth and by the 1800’s, porcelain was the standard material for crowns. The first modern dental crown was created by Dr. Charles Land in 1903. He created an all-porcelain jacket by taking a broken tooth and reconstructing it with a porcelain cover. This essentially made the tooth look brand new. This dental crown practice was used until the 1950s, which is when dental technologies started developing into what we now use as dental crowns.

Today, dental crowns can be made with four different types of materials:

  • Ceramics – These crowns are made with materials that are porcelain based. The benefit to these fillings are the natural look they give teeth, as the color blends well with natural teeth. Porcelain crowns are best for restoring the front teeth because of this. These crown resist wear-and-tear but can become brittle in cases with heavy biting.
  • Porcelain Fused to Metal – These crowns are attached to the tooth with a metal base and porcelain is then fused to the metal. These crowns make the restoration stronger than if a crown is made of only porcelain. These crowns also better prevent dental decay from recurring. Porcelain fused metal crowns are very durable.
  • Gold Alloys – While there are commonly called gold crowns, these crowns are made up of gold, copper, and other metals. This creates a strong material that supports the tooth. This is a strong material that doesn’t wear or fracture easily. This material also works well with natural gum tissue.
  • Base Metal Alloys – These crowns are made with metals that are strong and resist corrosion. When preparing for crowns made with this material, the dentist is able to remove the least amount of healthy tooth. Additionally, this material is gentle on other teeth that touch the crown.

A question that comes up a lot when discussing crowns is “How long will my crown last?” Depending on the material used to make the crown and the dental care of a person, a crown can have a varying lifespan. On average, dental crowns can last from ten to thirty years. However, there are factors such as dental hygiene practices that affect how long a crown can last. Some crowns may crack after some time due to trauma and sometimes the problem is with the tooth itself. Also, some crowns are simply not fitted properly.

Some tips to prolonging the life of a crown:

  • Brush Your Teeth – It’s always the first thing on the list but brushing your teeth is the most important way to take care of your teeth and your crowns.
  • Avoid Hard Foods – If you regularly bite into hard foods or ice, your crown is at risk of cracking.
  • Wear a Mouth Guard – If you are prone to grinding your teeth in your sleep or participate in sports, wearing a mouth guard protects your teeth and your crowns.
  • Pick the Best Material for You – There are many choices for which material to use for a dental crown, make sure you talk with your dentist and pick the best material for your teeth.

Carolina’s Dental Choice wants to help you understand how dental crowns work. There are a lot of questions to ask if you need a crown: What is it? How long will it take? How much will it cost? We at Carolina’s Dental Choice are happy to answer any questions you may have. If you have questions about replacing current dental crowns or are just ready for a dental checkup, give us a call at 704-289-9519.

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