For many people, injuring teeth from falling or other related accidents is relatively common since childhood, and we often do not think about the lasting damage it may leave behind after the pain has subsided.
These falls or accidents can be broadly categorized as “dental trauma”, which is any damage to the tooth that is caused by an external agent, accidental or otherwise. Some dental traumas can be caused by a fall, a sports injury, or in some cases, a previous orthodontic procedure. Studies show that about a quarter of Americans between the ages of six to fifty years old have experienced a dental injury, most of them taking place before they turn nineteen.
What Happens If I Damage My Tooth?
Depending on the type of injury (such as the force of the impact for a fall), it can cause damage to the pulp of your tooth–the center of your tooth that is made up of living connective tissue and cells, also known as odontoblasts.
If the blood vessels in the pulp are damaged, it can bleed and darken the overall color of the tooth. In some cases, this discoloration can last for a brief amount of time while your body repairs the damaged blood vessels and restores the tooth to its previous natural color. In other cases, your body may not be able to repair the pulp if the damage is too severe and the tooth will remain discolored.
Thankfully, with the advancement of dental technology, there are a few options to consider for fixing this problem. From teeth whitening to more permanent solutions like veneers or crowns, you can safely repair your injured tooth both inside and out, bringing it back to its state before the injury.
How To Repair Your Injured Tooth
Choosing teeth whitening is among one of the most popular dental treatments when it comes to repairing dental trauma, or simply for cosmetic purposes. Whiter teeth may allow people to appear younger, and the procedure is relatively cost-effective overall compared to others. However, traumatized teeth may react differently to whitening procedures compared to healthy, undamaged teeth, which can make achieving an even shade of lightness more difficult; this applies especially for teeth that have suffered from dental trauma.
While it may be challenging, it is still possible to achieve by talking to your dentist and a few extra steps.
No matter which option you choose to repair your dental injury, the first step is to get an exam.
Like physical injuries or illnesses, the tooth needs to be diagnosed to identify the severity of the injury through x-rays, which will make it easier to choose a procedure that is best for you. In terms of whitening, the exam will help your dentist determine whether the injured tooth’s pulp is “vital” or alive, in which case, external bleaching will be feasible. But in most cases, the darkening of a tooth is an indicator itself that the tooth’s pulp has died, and a root canal procedure must be performed before starting the whitening process.
A root canal treatment, also known as endodontic treatment, involves removing the dead or dying tissue to prevent infection and preserve the longevity of the tooth. After the root canal procedure is completed and the dead tissue has been removed, a bleaching agent can then be placed inside the tooth, also referred to as internal bleaching.
Internal bleaching is achieved by first accessing the pulp chamber, which is a small passageway in the center of the tooth, by creating a small opening in the back of the tooth. The chamber will be cleaned and rinsed of any residue or debris left inside, and a special type of cement will be added so that the bleaching agent will not leak into the tooth’s roots or mouth. A peroxide-based bleaching agent, such as those containing hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, will then be placed in the chamber and sealed in temporarily.
This process will be repeated every few days or so (typically about four visits) until the desired shade is achieved, in which the hole in the tooth will be sealed permanently, usually with a filling material of composite resin colored to match the shade of your teeth. Internal bleaching is typically enough to lighten your tooth, otherwise, external bleaching can also be performed in conjunction to get the desired results.
Another method is to get a dental veneer or a crown.
A dental veneer also referred to as porcelain veneers or dental porcelain laminates is a wafer-thin shell made from porcelain or resin materials that cover the entire front surface of your tooth. Porcelain veneers are more common since they resist stains better compared to resin veneers, and they reflect light like natural teeth. The shell is bonded to the front of the tooth with an adhesive material, which changes the color, size, shape, or length of it.
Like veneers, crowns are fixtures that are custom made to look like an actual tooth and are permanently cemented to your teeth or implants. Veneers can be more convenient for certain people or situations because of their relatively quick procedure, which can be completed usually in three visits: the initial consultation, the second to make the veneer, and the third to apply it. Patients do not need to return for multiple treatments that are usually required for internal or external teeth whitening.
Although it is impossible to avoid any and all dental trauma, some preparation can go a long way to keep your teeth and mouth safe.
If you participate in sports or frequently engage in physical activity, obtaining a mouthguard can soften the impact on your teeth in the event of an accident. This is especially important for those who wear braces, as the metal used in the brackets can become loose very easily. An orthodontic mouthguard is different from a regular mouthguard in that it is designed to fit over the braces, protecting your braces, teeth, and the inside of your mouth from injuries.
Another solution to investigate is clear braces, which are made with tooth-colored ceramic material designed to blend in with your teeth, providing a less noticeable but equally effective treatment. There is even the option for clear braces without brackets, as well: removable trays made with a pliable material that is custom-fitted to you, designed to fit over your teeth in a series of sets to apply a slight adjustment to the alignment over time.
Regardless of what method you choose to avoid dental trauma or repair it, with today’s dental technology, you and your dentist are sure to find a solution that fits your needs and lifestyle.