A sensitive tooth is an indication of irritation of nerves in the tooth. Since the sensitivity may come and go with hot or cold exposure, eating acidic foods, brushing and flossing or with bite, patients tend to delay diagnosis until they are in constant pain and require emergency treatment.
A sensitive tooth or tooth ache is a potential symptom of a broken tooth or fracture that should never be ignored and always addressed promptly by your dentist.
There are several ways that teeth break or fracture:
- They chip – a small piece of tooth fractures above the gumline
- They break – a larger piece of tooth down to the gumline
- They fracture vertically – the root splits
The vertical fracture is a common event we treat at Keystone Dental Arts, and with early intervention, it may be preventable.
The scenario goes like this:
Our patient comes to the office with a tooth ache. The tooth has a moderate to large filling (usually silver amalgam) that has been there for years. It is determined that the tooth needs root canal treatment. The tooth is dead and there is infection around the root. When the root canal is begun, it becomes evident that there is a fracture that runs vertically down the side of the root. The tooth must be extracted.
This scenario plays out at our office five or six times a month.
What I often find is, the filling fills the cavity, but weakens the tooth. After some time, the tooth begins to crack around the filling. As the crack gets larger it moves straight down the root. It seems as though more people are grinding their teeth these days, both at night and during the day. Grinding of the teeth or teeth clenching can put a lot of force on these cracked areas. The combination of large fillings and clenching can be catastrophic.
What can early intervention do to prevent this?
- Replace certain silver fillings so cracks can be found before they progress
- Apply fillings with improved materials to strengthen the tooth
- Prevent tooth grinding with adjustments to the bite or use of a night guard
Vertical fractures have joined cavities and periodontal disease as major causes of tooth loss. With regular periodic exams, we can often identify future problems early. If you have a sensitive tooth or tooth pain, even if it comes and goes, do not wait for your next scheduled exam, contact us right away to reduce your chances of worsening conditions and vertical fracture.