Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cracked Tooth - Ouch!

My friend Dr. Alan Mead - a dentist in Michigan wrote a very informative blog about cracks in teeth a while back.


As a dentist, I see cracks in teeth everyday.  After personally experiencing teeth breaking around old fillings, I find myself sharing how painful it was and how it always seemed to happen at inopportune times.

There are two factors that if addressed properly, can pretty much ensure that you can predictably keep your teeth:

The first is health - we emphasize brushing and flossing.  Clean teeth do not get cavities and minimizes the chance of gum disease.

The second is function.  If you are putting too much force on a tooth - something is going to give once that threshold has been exceeded.

The functional threshold of one of my patient's tooth was exceeded this week. Here is her story -

She presented with EXTREME pain that began suddenly while eating dinner the night before.

I looked at her tooth and saw a fracture on her lower right molar. The fractured part of the tooth was still present and when anything touched it, the segment would move and it sent her into writing agony.  The tooth has a well placed conservative filling.  I would put this tooth at low risk for a fracture if she presented for a routine exam.  The radiograph that we took was inconclusive for a fracture or any other infection.

Figure 1 -(Tooth #30) fracture noted on left side of tooth extending along the filling through the middle of the lower (lingual) wall.  It is slightly brown colored along the filling.

We discussed her options: Remove the fractured portion of the tooth and determine if it was restorable. It would need at very least a foundation build-up and a crown.  I informed her of the potential additional need for a root canal or a possible extraction.

We attempted to get her numb but was unsuccessful due to the acute problem.  Sometimes a tooth is so "hot" (or inflamed) anesthetic doesn't work. When this happens, I get more confident that root canal therapy is indicated.

We referred her over to Dr. Rahim Karmali, a root canal specialist here in Denver, who then did an evaluation that included a three dimensional - CT scan of the tooth.

Figure 2: CT scan clearly illustrating the extent of the fracture.

Figure 3 - Sagital view - fracture down to the boney crest

Figure 4 - Shows the fracture extending on the root surface

The technology that is available to us allows us to better predict the restorability of teeth.

It was obvious to Dr. Karmali, myself and the patient, that this tooth, unfortunately, was not restorable.

So as I mentioned previously that I see cracks in teeth everyday.  I am proactive when I see these fractures and tell and show my patients what I see and give options to fix the situation.

When my patient asks me how long before this tooth needs to be fixed.  I will reply with the words of my good friend Dr. Mead, 

"I recommend that you fix it the day before it breaks!"  

I also share this unfortunate experience and hope that it doesn't happen to your tooth...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Case study - Addressing Jaw (TMJ) Problems to a Wonderful New Smile with Veneers and Crowns.

I haven't blogged in a while....My patient care coordinator Monique asked why?

"I haven't been inspired to write lately!"

She said, "Why don't you share some of the smiles that we have improved?  They are life changing!"

I thought about it for a moment...""Not a bad idea!"

So here it goes.....

This particular patient of mine presented with jaw pain after a car accident.  He had many broken bones and chipped teeth. He went through many surgeries and has healed up nicely.

I treat a lot of patients with jaw pain.  I enjoy it - When I was in dental school, we were taught to do bite splint therapy. If they don't get better, send them to their psychiatrist as they are crazy.  I didn't buy that as I had a history of jaw problems and I wasn't crazy...

I spent many years after dental school taking classes on how to treat patients comprehensively -and this included the orthopedic treatment of the jaw and how it relates to the bite. By following some of these protocols, I am now able to treat a wide variety of dental issues predictably.

So we started with bite therapy that included various types of splints over two years to allow the jaw to heal. As his jaw healed and then stabilized, we started discussions on idealizing his bite.  He didn't present with esthetic concerns, but as we got to know each other through his treatment, he revealed to me that his front teeth chipped during the accident.

Adding length to the front teeth without addressing the function could be a very risky procedure.  The length of the front teeth could affect how one chew's food, how one grinds their teeth and also could affect how one speaks.

If the increased length interferes with the normal jaw movements or grinding patterns, the restorations are at high risk to break. It could affect the jaw muscles or one could develop headaches.  Teeth that are too long will compromise the 's', 'f', and 'v' sounds - giving the patient speech impediments.  They must also fit the features of the face to look as natural possible.

If any of these factors are not addressed, the results could be devastating.

Fig. 1 - Multiple short and chipped teeth
As part of idealizing his bite, we were able to add length and repair the smile within the harmony of his function.

Here is the after photo.

Fig. 2 -Restored smile with veneers and crowns

Happy patient.  He admits to me that he was very self conscious with his smile prior to the restorations.  Now he smiles confidently and most important, he is comfortable!