What happens at a family reunion? Let’s hope that folks spend the day smiling and laughing, as they recall times past. At the Stuart household, they also played games in the basement, specifically a ping pong championship with many rounds. I got a call from my patient, Paul, that night. A family member had accidentally hit him in the mouth with a ping pong paddle and he detected a crack in his front tooth. Over the years, I’ve discovered that one person’s “crack” is another person’s “bleeding profusely and dangling”, so I like to see things for myself. I met him at my practice.
The disadvantage of a tooth that cracks is that I sometimes can’t determine whether the crack is just on the visible section of the tooth or whether it extends under the gum line. I also don’t know if the impact that caused the tooth to crack was so violent that it also caused the nerve to die, or possibly die in the near future. To stabilize Paul’s tooth, I used tooth colored materials to “splint” it to nearby teeth, after conducting a couple tests to determine the extent of damage. I asked him to avoid biting through foods like a sandwich or apple.
Then we waited. I also asked him to come back in a week unless it began to hurt more, a piece chipped off, or if he experienced more swelling. I didn’t hear from him.
When he returned, the tooth had stabilized and the swelling was gone. He considered the tooth “healed”, but cracks in teeth don’t heal themselves. I asked him to return in a month unless he experienced pain or pressure in the area and, at that visit, we took an x-ray to evaluate the health of the nerve and position of the root.
Paul was lucky because the tooth never bothered him. We placed a thin layer of tooth colored material, called a veneer, on the front of his tooth to stabilize the crack and he went on to play ping pong at subsequent family reunions. I wonder if he wore a baseball catcher’s mask…
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