Question: I was eating some of my child’s Halloween candy and heard a crack from my tooth. Now it hurts when I drink cold water and I can’t bite on the tooth. What should I do?
Answer: Every year I encounter a handful of patients with this same story. But no matter how a tooth breaks, it is very important to have a dentist evaluate the situation. Very often with tooth fracture, the outer layer of enamel is lost, which exposes the inner layer of tooth structure called dentin. This part of the tooth contains small nerve fibers that can be very sensitive when exposed. Furthermore, with exposed dentin, a tooth is much more likely to develop decay. In some cases, a fracture can extend all the way to the nerve of the tooth, which can result in nerve death, infection, and a terrible toothache. Treatment for a cracked or broken tooth can range from simply polishing away the sharp edges of a minor chip, to root canal therapy, crown, or even extraction for a more severe fracture. In any event, failure to have a cracked tooth examined by a dentist will almost certainly lead to more serious problems for the injured tooth. So remember to be very careful when enjoying your Halloween candy this year, but if something scary happens to your teeth, call your dentist for an appointment right away!