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Tooth Trauma and Why It’s a Concern

Kids and adults alike are prone to sustaining trauma to their teeth. A slip on the floor can send you flying face-first towards the ceramic tile. A chipped tooth is the most obvious consequence of trauma, but what happens inside the tooth is of more importance than the aesthetic footprint the injury created. An impact to the teeth can cause a disruption in blood flow to the pulp, where all the critical parts of the tooth from the nerves to the roots are situated. The tooth may or may not recover, but with immediate dental intervention the odds favor the former.

A dentist can diagnose the extent of the injury, and whether or not it has affected the internal structures of the tooth. If the injury has gone beyond the enamel (outermost) layer, the tooth must be resealed to prevent bacterial infection. If the tooth has sustained pulpal injury, the affected part of the pulp may be removed and the remainder medicated to aid in recovery. If the injury is left untreated, the pulp will eventually become infected setting the stage for immense discomfort and the necessity for root canal treatment.

Aesthetic management of tooth trauma is often conducted with composite bonding, depending on the extent of the injury. This is an inexpensive method for repairing small fractures. Other teeth may require restoration using dental crowns, which are much more costly but hold up much better in the long run. Crowns come in all-ceramic and porcelain-fused-to-metal configurations. Which is preferred depends on the location of the affected tooth and the patient’s budget. In the case of anterior (front) teeth, ceramic crowns provide the best of both worlds aesthetic appeal and high durability. You can read more about crowns here.

One of the major problems with traumatized teeth relates to discoloration. Although this is only a temporary effect in the case of teeth that heal, those that don’t recover will continue to darken as the internal bleeding stains the dentin. A root canal will need to be performed on these dead teeth, but this too may contribute to the darkening. A cosmetic dentist can use the “walking bleach” technique to whiten the teeth from the inside out. The same chemicals used in conventional whitening are used in this process, but are delivered internally. It may take several weeks before drastic bleaching is observed, but overall this technique yields much faster results than tray bleaching. Regardless, remember that the aesthetic concerns surrounding tooth trauma should take secondary priority to preserving the health of the tooth.