Teeth sometimes crack due to trauma or decay. When the break occurs on the chewing surface of a tooth, it's called a fractured cusp. This type of crack often appears around a filling that was previously inserted to plug a hole in the tooth.
Minor fractured cusps tend not to cause any pain or discomfort. More severe fractures can expose the sensitive root material inside the tooth and make chewing or eating hot or cold foods uncomfortable. Either way, it's important to see a dentist as soon as you notice the fracture to prevent any further damage to the tooth.
What are the dental treatment options for a fractured cusp?
Moderate Crack, No Previous Filling: Filling
A moderate crack threatens the stability of the tooth and can allow bacteria into the root structure, where the bacteria can cause an infection. If the affected tooth hasn't had a previous filling, your dentist might use a filling to correct the crack.
Either a metallic or tooth-colored composite material is placed inside the hole to fill the gap. The procedure is quick and routine and, with proper oral healthcare, should keep your tooth healthy for years to come.
Moderate to Severe Crack: Crown and Root Canal
If the crack is deep enough to expose the root, or the tooth already has a filling that isn't working, then a crown might be the next treatment step. A crown is essentially an artificial tooth cap that's placed over the existing tooth to protect the remaining healthy structures.
Before the cap is done, your dentist might recommend a root canal. This procedure involves removing the natural crown of the tooth, cleaning out the infected pulp material inside, washing the area with an antibacterial solution and then sealing everything back up with an artificial crown.
If the root canal isn't necessary, there are a few different types of crowns that are available. A full crown would cover the entire existing tooth down to the gum line. A three-quarters crown would, as the name implies, cover all but the bottom quarter of the tooth. Then there's a crown cap that only covers the biting surface.
Whenever a fractured cusp appears, it's important to get to the dentist as soon as possible. Quick treatment can prevent the crack from worsening or any infection from entering the exposed root canal. If your tooth is sensitive, press a damp washcloth on the affected area until you can get to the dentist. For more information, contact a business such as Panther Hollow Dental Lodge.