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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Tooth Extraction Explained at Carolina’s Dental Choice

2020-07-16T16:56:44+00:00April 17th, 2019|Dental Insurance, Dental Trends, Oral Health|

Our team at Carolina’s Dental Choice knows that the word “extraction” can cause anxiety and even fear in some people. Many of us have had this procedure done, sometimes multiple times, and the reason a tooth needs to be extracted varies from patient to patient.

What Is Dental Extraction?

A dental extraction (also called exondontia or informally, tooth pulling) is the removal of teeth from the socket (dental alveolus) in the alveolar bone. Extractions are performed for a wide range of reasons, but most commonly because a tooth is unrestorable due to decay, periodontal disease, or dental trauma.

Tooth decay is the softening of your tooth enamel and refers to the damage of the structure of the tooth caused by acids that are created when plaque bacteria break down sugar in your mouth.

Periodontal diseases are infections of the structures around the teeth, which include the gums, periodontal ligament, and alveolar bone.

Traumatic dental injuries most often occur as a result of an accident or sports injury. The majority of these injuries are minor, such as chipped teeth. Occasionally though, a tooth will dislodge or even get knocked out completely.

Extraction Procedure

Typically, when undergoing a tooth extraction procedure, your dentist will numb the area with a local anesthetic before the procedure.

Common forms of local anesthesia are Novocaine and more popularly, Lidocaine, which is injected after the dentist numbs the area with an external numbing agent. Here are all the common forms of anesthesia:

  • Local Anesthesia—this is when medication is injected into the mouth to numb the area to be treated and block the nerves that transmit pain. This type of anesthesia is commonly used during fillings, treating gum disease, or preparing teeth for crowns.
  • Sedation—this method is usually administered by inhaling nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas. It can also be administered orally in the form of a pill taken prior to the dental procedure. This form of anesthesia is commonly combined with a local anesthetic to help relieve anxiety and reduce pain.
  • General Anesthesia—this is the strongest form of anesthesia available for dental procedures and involves intravenous medications that produce a temporary loss of consciousness. General anesthesia is usually only used during oral surgery procedures.

You may have also heard of I.V. sedation and wondered if it were for you. Intravenous (I.V.) sedation has become more common and works well for those with fear of the dentist and dental procedures. It is also ideal for patients whose fear of dentistry has led to a large amounts of dental work needing to be completed.  I.V. Sedation is also used for outpatient procedures, like colonoscopies. Referred to as “twilight sleep,” you will wake with little or no memory of the procedure. Anesthesia is given via the I.V. and recovery requires someone take you to/from the procedure.

If the extraction involves an impacted tooth, the tooth may be broken into pieces before it is removed. An impacted tooth is a tooth that, for some reason, has been blocked from breaking through the gum. Sometimes a tooth may be only partially impacted, meaning it has started to break through.

Your dentist will perform x-rays and thorough examinations before this stage and will explain the procedure and any other possible options. Often, with impacted teeth, there are no symptoms and only an x-ray will discover it.

Another reason teeth are extracted, especially in youth and young adults, is to make room in the mouth before planning to straighten remaining teeth. Teeth may also be extracted if they are so poorly positioned that they cannot possibly be straightened. A less common reason to extract a tooth is as a cheaper alternative to filling or placing a crown on a decayed tooth.

If you or your child has a condition where a tooth extraction might be called for, please call Carolina’s Dental Choice at (704) 289-9519 to schedule an appointment.

The number of Americans missing at least one tooth is more than 120 million, so it’s not at all unusual to be missing one or more teeth for a variety of reasons, including those listed above.

What’s the deal with Wisdom Teeth?

One of the most common procedures is the removal of the “wisdom teeth.” What is this procedure and why do these teeth often need to be removed and what are the benefits? According to www.mayoclinic.org:

Wisdom tooth extraction is a surgical procedure to remove one or more wisdom teeth — the four permanent adult teeth located at the back corners of your mouth on the top and bottom.

If a wisdom tooth doesn’t have room to grow (impacted wisdom tooth), resulting in pain, infection, or other dental problems, you’ll likely need to have it pulled. Wisdom tooth extraction may be done by a dentist or an oral surgeon.

For many, the first use of dental anesthesia is during extraction of wisdom teeth (the four hindmost molars that come in during young adulthood), which can cause issues including moving other teeth around.

To prevent potential future problems, some dentists and oral surgeons recommend wisdom tooth extraction even if impacted teeth aren’t currently causing problems.

Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the last permanent teeth to appear (erupt) in the mouth. These teeth usually appear between the ages of 17 and 25. Some people never develop wisdom teeth. For others, wisdom teeth erupt normally — just as their other molars did — and cause no problems.

Many people develop impacted wisdom teeth — teeth that don’t have enough room to erupt into the mouth or develop normally. Impacted wisdom teeth may erupt only partially or not at all.

An impacted wisdom tooth may:

  • Grow at an angle toward the next tooth (second molar)
  • Grow at an angle toward the back of the mouth
  • Grow at a right angle to the other teeth, as if the wisdom tooth is “lying down” within the jawbone
  • Grow straight up or down like other teeth but stay trapped within the jawbone

Problems with impacted wisdom teeth. You’ll likely need your impacted wisdom tooth pulled if it results in problems such as:

  • Pain
  • Trapping food and debris behind the wisdom tooth
  • Infection or gum disease (periodontal disease)
  • Tooth decay in a partially erupted wisdom tooth
  • Damage to a nearby tooth or surrounding bone
  • Development of a fluid-filled sac (cyst)

Preventing future dental problems. Dental specialists disagree about the value of extracting impacted wisdom teeth that aren’t causing problems (asymptomatic), because it is difficult to predict future problems with impacted wisdom teeth. However, here’s the rationale for preventive extraction:

  • Symptom-free wisdom teeth could still harbor disease.
  • If there isn’t enough space for the tooth to erupt, it’s often hard to get to it and clean it properly.
  • Serious complications with wisdom teeth happen less often in younger adults.
  • Older adults may experience difficulty with surgery and complications after surgery.

What to expect after a Dental Extraction

Immediately after an extraction, be sure to follow your dentist’s instructions. You may receive a prescription for a mild pain killer or antibiotic, but in most cases, over-the-counter medications will manage pain. Do not eat solid foods or smoke for 48 hours. Stick with soft foods like yogurt, soups, mashed potatoes, and smoothies (avoided fruit seeds). The soft tissue takes about 3-4 weeks to heal.

Keep an eye out for any signs of acute bleeding, pain, or swelling. This could indicate an infection.

Beware of Dry Socket

Dry socket (alveolar osteitis) is a painful dental condition that sometimes happens after you have a permanent adult tooth extracted. Dry socket is when the blood clot at the site of the tooth extraction fails to develop, or it dislodges or dissolves before the wound has healed.

Normally, a blood clot forms at the site of a tooth extraction. This blood clot serves as a protective layer over the underlying bone and nerve endings in the empty tooth socket. The clot also provides the foundation for the growth of new bone and for the development of soft tissue over the clot.

Exposure of the underlying bone and nerves results in intense pain, not only in the socket but also along the nerves radiating to the side of your face. The socket becomes inflamed and may fill with food debris, adding to the pain. If you develop dry socket, the pain usually begins one to three days after your tooth is removed.

Dry socket is the most common complication following tooth extractions, such as the removal of third molars (wisdom teeth). Over-the-counter medications alone won’t be enough to treat dry socket pain. Your dentist or oral surgeon can offer treatments to relieve your pain.

Signs and symptoms of dry socket may include:

  • Severe pain within a few days after a tooth extraction
  • Partial or total loss of the blood clot at the tooth extraction site, which you may notice as an empty-looking (dry) socket
  • Visible bone in the socket
  • Pain that radiates from the socket to your ear, eye, temple, or neck on the same side of your face as the extraction
  • Bad breath
  • Unpleasant taste in your mouth

When to see a doctor. A certain degree of pain and discomfort is normal after a tooth extraction. However, you should be able to manage normal pain with the pain reliever prescribed by your dentist or oral surgeon, and the pain should lessen with time.

If you develop new or worsening pain in the days after your tooth extraction, contact your dentist or oral surgeon immediately.

Expected Costs

The cost of a dental extraction can vary depending on your dentist’s fees and the scope of work. In some instances, extractions (such as wisdom teeth that are impacted) may need to be handled by a dental surgeon under anesthesia.

According to Member Benefits, who tracks the cost of dental work throughout the country, the cost of dental extraction (per tooth) can range from $75-$300 for a non-surgical extraction, and upwards of $650 for a single surgical extraction.  Additional costs could include x-rays and exam fees.

If you have dental insurance, it will take a bite (no pun intended) out of your bill. Depending on your policy, it may cover up to 50% of the cost. At Carolina’s Dental Choice, we work with a variety of Dental Insurers, as well as, Medicaid. Our staff will help you understand the costs involved and file the insurance paperwork for you. If you don’t have insurance, we offer an In-House Dental Savings Plan that allows patients to receive treatment at a discounted price.

Carolina’s Dental Choice also welcomes new patients. Whether you have just moved to the Monroe/Charlotte area, are transferring your care from another practice, need to establish care with a dentist, or find yourself suddenly in need of dental service, we look forward to partnering with you for the benefit of your oral health.

As we’ve explored, the reasons for a dental extraction are varied. There is no need to be in pain or discomfort, or even embarrassment, if you feel you need help with dental issues. Our staff is ready to help you find solutions for your dental needs.

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