Despite what you may have seen in the movies, teeth don't always break off and fall out at the root. It's not uncommon for teeth to actually separate at the gum line, leaving the root behind. Since this doesn't always cause pain when it happens, people may think it is okay to leave the tooth alone. However, you want to make an appointment with your dentist and have the rest of the tooth removed as soon as possible, and here's why.
The Root Can Cause Oral Health Problems
The inner part of your teeth contains pulp and nerves. This material is necessary for delivering the nutrients that keep teeth and gums healthy and the white blood cells that help fight off infections caused by bacteria. When the tooth breaks off at the gum line, this inner part becomes exposed to the bacteria in your mouth and significantly increases the chance the tooth will become infected.
This can lead to a variety of problems, ranging from mild pain and swelling to an abscessed tooth. The bacteria from the infection can find their way into your blood stream and cause other problems in the body, such as heart disease and brain damage. At the very minimum, you may develop periodontal disease and cavities.
It should be noted, though, that teeth broken at the gum line don't always cause problems. Some people have lived with teeth damaged this way for years without any ill effects. Typically what happens is the gums will close over the damaged area, which may provide it with a measure of protection. Generally, though, you want to at least consult with a dentist about the issue. He or she can let you know if the tooth needs to come out right away or if you can wait for a more opportune time, such as when you get dental insurance.
There are a couple of ways this issue can be treated. If you get to the dentist soon enough, he or she may be able to save the tooth. Depending on how far below the gum line the break occurred, the dentist may be able to perform a procedure called crown lengthening that involves cutting the gum, removing some of the bone around the root, and placing a specially designed crown on top.
Alternatively, the dentist may force the root to erupt further into the mouth by binding the surrounding teeth to create enough pressure to make the affected tooth move and then putting a crown on it when it has settled into the optimal vertical position. Either of these options are only possible, though, if the tooth root is healthy and doesn't contain a cavity or infection and the jaw bone is strong enough to continue maintaining the tooth.
Crown lengthening is permanent and can cost between $1,500 and $2,000 per tooth. If you don't have the money or the root is too damaged to save, then your dentist will recommend it be removed completely. Again, depending on how far the tooth has broken, the dentist will use one of two methods:
If the leftover tooth is big enough, the dentist will cut open the gums and use a pair of tiny forceps to grab the root and work it out of the bone. On the other hand, if the piece is too small to be grabbed or the tooth is too far down into the bone, the dentist may use a special piezoelectric machine to get it out. After the healing period, the tooth can then be replaced using an implant or a partial denture.
For more information about this problem or to have your broken teeth inspected, contact a dental office like Abbott Family Dentistry, LLC.