Top 10 Ways to Break a Tooth

I feel like I’ve seen quite a few patients with broken teeth lately, so I want to address the issue and cover some of the more common reasons people crack their teeth. If you are guilty of any of the below habits, take evasive action now! We love seeing our patients frequently, but we’d rather you didn’t have to go through the pain and expense of a broken tooth for something avoidable. In the style of David Letterman, here are Top 10 Ways to Break a Tooth:

Top 10 Ways to Break a Tooth
 

  1. Sports Injuries. While not nearly as common as the rest of the items on this list, we do see sports injuries from time to time. Most injuries during sports occur due to patients not wearing proper protective guards. Church ball is especially problematic in Orem, Utah because everyone thinks they’re semi-pro no matter how past their prime they are.
  2. Popcorn. Although a great snack on many levels, popcorn presents a lot of dental issues. Those dang husks are prone to getting stuck in your gums or in your throat, and the unpopped kernels hide out like landmines waiting for you to bite on them and blow up your weekend.
  3. Unprotected Root Canal Teeth. Remember that painful toothache you had a few months back? That Sunday afternoon emergency root canal was a godsend and things were feeling great . . . until you bit down on it yesterday and cracked the tooth in half, and now you’re into bigger issues. Don’t neglect your dentist’s advice to put a crown on any back (and sometimes front) tooth that has had a root canal. They are especially prone to breaking.
  4. Big Fillings. Similar to #8, teeth with big fillings are prone to cracking. Fillings are very hard, but we underestimate just how much force our teeth endure on a daily basis. A good rule of thumb to follow is to be wary of any filling that is more than 50% as wide as your tooth (measuring from the tongue/palate side to the cheek side). If your tooth is 70-80% of the tooth width, you’re living dangerously.
  5. Chewing Ice. You know you shouldn’t do this. Just stop it.
  6. Hard Candy. Just like your mother told you, hard candy is for sucking, not chewing. Many a tooth has suffered injury due to motherly advice going unheeded.
  7. Old Silver Fillings. Most silver fillings are great. Although you don’t necessarily love how it looks, dental amalgam was a great material that can be both strong and long-lasting. Because they shrink and expand with thermal changes, however, sometimes silver fillings put microfractures in your teeth that become more serious over time.
  8. Night Grinding. This one is tricky because you probably don’t even know you’re guilty of doing it. If your teeth have signs of wear, including flattened canine teeth, divots on molar cusps, and chipped front teeth, you really should be wearing a night guard. Night guards are much cheaper than restorative dental work.
  9. Using Teeth as Tools. Whether it’s opening packages, biting clothes tags, cutting fishing line or sewing materials, clipping nails, securing things as a mini vice tool, or any of the other dumb things people do with their teeth, you may have some habits to curb.  Your teeth are great as chewing instruments, but they are not built for other functions. Plus, unlike that $2 set of fingernail clippers, your teeth aren’t replaceable. Teeth are jewels, not tools!
  10. Decay.  Far and away the most common reason for broken teeth is underlying cavities. Enamel is extremely strong, even stronger than your bones, but when bacteria rots it from the inside, it doesn’t stand a chance under heavy chewing forces. Schedule regular checkups to catch problems when they’re small and make sure to follow treatment recommendations.

-Nicolas K. Young, DMD