When a patient has a cracked tooth
Cracked teeth can be tricky. They’re not always symptomatic, or might bother patients significantly some days and other days not at all.
Though it’s easier for patients to accept treatment when they’re in pain, convincing them while their pain is manageable or non-existent can be harder.
Here are some ideas to help educate patients on the importance of addressing cracked teeth no matter the symptoms.
Cracked teeth don’t get better
Patients need to understand that there are only two possible prognoses for a cracked tooth:
- It stays the same.
- It gets worse.
People are used to their body healing itself over time so it’s normal to believe the same is true with teeth. Once you explain that a cracked tooth does not getter in the same way, they’ll be more open in moving forward with treatment.
Percuss or tap adjacent teeth to identify the cracked tooth
Percussing the surrounding teeth and the cracked tooth shows the patient the sensitivity of the crack. Often, just a slight tinge of pain compared to no pain from the other healthy teeth will help a patient grasp the difference, encouraging them to get treatment.
Avoiding tooth loss
Patients tend to associate pain with dental treatment. Meaning that if it doesn’t hurt enough to affect daily life, they can hold off treatment until it does.
But patients need to understand that a cracked tooth doesn’t slowly worsen over time. It’s more likely that one wrong bite of food will instantly turn that crack into a broken tooth, which is a more serious condition and can potentially lead to tooth extraction.
Explain that fixing a cracked tooth is significantly less invasive and more affordable than installing a replacement implant.
Discussing the different types of breaks is another great way to get patients thinking.
- A patient may have enough remaining tooth structure to fix the broken tooth with a crown.
- If a patient loses structure below bone level, the tooth will probably need extraction.
- The tooth is unable to be saved if it cracks down the middle and separates into two pieces.
- Vertical cracks can travel into the pulp chamber. Sometimes root canal treatment can save the tooth and it can be capped with a crown but in these situations the long-term prognosis is far from guaranteed.
Educating patients on the potential consequences of skipping treatment for a cracked tooth is key to them making an informed decision about their oral health.