Break it like Beckham? How dentists can fix broken teeth

Dentist Lucy Stock of Gentle Dental Care in Belfast says if you break a tooth, don't panic – there are several possible solutions

David Beckham broke a tooth this week while snowboarding

IT SEEMS that mishaps can affect even the most beautiful of us; David Beckham broke his front tooth in a snowboarding accident last week. Nobody panic – it's all fixed now!

Joking aside, it can be very distressing breaking a front tooth. Common perpetrators of tooth injuries include: bottles hitting them on a night out, babies backward head butting, handle bar gymnastics, swimming pool floors and practically all sports.

When its a child's tooth it often leaves the parents more distressed than the child. So if it happens to you or your child, try to remain calm. If it's a clean break, when possible try and find the piece of tooth as this can be helpful to the dentist when rebuilding the shape of the tooth.

Initially the dentist will take an X-ray of the tooth to look at the root and the surrounding bone at the time of the break and then it can be monitored at intervals.

When treating a broken tooth the dentist takes into consideration how much tooth is left above the gum, the condition of the nerve and how your teeth bite together. Nowadays the general trend in dentistry is to carry out as conservative a treatment as possible. This means keeping as much of the original tooth as feasible.

The treatment depends on the severity of the break. For instance, if just the edge of the tooth breaks then frequently all that's needed is to rebuild the tooth with some composite bonding. Rebuilding a front tooth takes artistic talent, even for a small break. Composite bonding involves sculpting on tooth-coloured materials, building them up in layers and polishing to mimic the shading of a natural tooth.

If a lot of the tooth structure has been lost then a crown which covers 360 degrees of a tooth may be indicated. However it's the vitality of the tooth that's important after a hard knock – ie is the tooth alive? Over time a tooth that has been traumatised can abscess and darken or very rarely the root can even start dissolving. If this happens then the nerve chamber of the tooth may need to be cleaned and sealed with a root filling.

There's lots that can be done to save a tooth but if it needs to come out then dental implants, bridges or dentures can be considered to replace the tooth.

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