Picture this. It’s Saturday night, and you’re sitting down on the couch, chips in hand, watching the latest sci-fi thriller, when suddenly the crunch of your potato chip sounds more like a crack. Just like that, the crown on your tooth has broken in half in your mouth and ruined your relaxing evening. What do you do now? Even dentists with Saturday hours are closed this late, and nobody is open on Sunday. It will be at least a day before you can even call to make an appointment. Before you panic or try a risky DIY repair procedure, follow these steps to protect your teeth, and maybe even save your crown!
The first thing you need to do is take a deep breath and assess the condition of your crown. If the crown is broken in half, it may not be fixable, and your dentist will need to make you a new one. In some cases, if the crown is just chipped, your dentist may be able to file down the chipped area, and the rest of the crown can remain in your mouth. Check for any sharp edges or any pieces of crown remaining in your mouth. If your crown is still attached, but it is at all sharp, uncomfortable, or if you think it could cut your mouth before you have time to have it fixed, try gently brushing the tooth and then covering the sharp area with dental wax until you can be seen by your dentist. Avoid chewing on that side of the mouth if possible.
If the crown has broken so badly that it is no longer attached to your tooth, set it aside and clean the remaining tooth structure the best you can until you can speak to your dentist or an emergency dentist. If you are not otherwise injured, do not go to a hospital emergency room as a broken crown is not a medical emergency. If you break the crown in a fall or trauma to your face or mouth, you should seek emergency care to make sure there is no other damage to your teeth, jaw and the rest of your head or neck.
If your crown has come off but is still intact, you can reattach it yourself temporarily until you can be seen by your dentist. First, clean the remaining tooth structure and make sure there is no food or plaque left behind on the tooth. Then put the crown back on either with some denture grip, petroleum jelly, or with over the counter dental cement, which can be found in the toothpaste aisle of most pharmacies. Dental cement is a temporary fix and is only meant to last a few days. It will not permanently reattach your crown. Do not, repeat DO NOT try to save money by reattaching your crown with a permanent adhesive like super glue. Your crown will still need to be reattached using a dental grade, permanent adhesive. Using something that is not intended for oral use could make you very sick, and could damage the remaining tooth as well as the crown. It can also make it very difficult for your dentist to remove the crown when you are ready to have it fixed.
If you cannot get your crown to stay on your tooth securely, do not try to wear it anyway, as you could accidentally swallow it or choke on it. If you cannot reattach the crown, set it aside and be sure to eat only soft foods until you can be seen by your dentist. Be sure to brush the remaining tooth structure gently, as it is not as strong as the rest of your teeth, or as strong as it was when the crown was attached.
While you are waiting to be seen by a dentist, remember that your tooth may hurt, even if you haven’t hurt the tooth itself. This is because the pulp in the tooth structure can be sensitive when exposed to air, or too hot or cold foods and drinks. This sensitivity should subside once the crown is replaced.
If the crown breaks off and the remaining tooth is damaged, do not attempt to reattach the crown, but try to be seen as soon as possible. Most dentists can fit a few dental emergencies in with little or no notice during regular business hours.
If you have any questions about broken crowns, or if you need immediate assistance with a broken crown or just need to set up an appointment, contact Dr. Alexandra George’s office at 724-934-3422.