All Fixed Up
January 24, 2013
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All Fixed Up…

            On a daily basis, dentists see a variety of personalities with a variety of dental health problems.  On top of that, for every dental problem there exists a multitude of solutions.  Often, there is no single “right” way to fix a tooth problem, rather a variety of treatment options that all have their own benefits.  The goal of your dental team is to help you to choose a course of treatment that fits into your life. 

            So what are the “usual” options to fix a broken and/or painful tooth?

            First, an exam must be done to evaluate the tooth, the gums, and the bone that supports the tooth.  Often, two x-rays will be taken.  One, a bitewing, evaluates bone levels and the extent of the decay or lost tooth structure.  A second film, a periapical radiograph, is taken to evaluate for infection in the bone around the root of the tooth.  Pictures may also be taken to evaluate or explain the problem to patients, guardians, or insurance companies.  Finally, your dentist will examine the tooth and may perform additional diagnostic tests to determine your options.

            In the best case scenario, a tooth can be fixed with a simple filling.  This takes a single visit and is the most conservative treatment.  If the cause of the problem is close to the nerve of the tooth, medicine may be permanently placed under the filling to help the tooth heal.

            More extensive problems that have rotted or broken off more than one-third of the healthy tooth structure require some type of lab fabricated replacement.  This can be in the form of an esthetic porcelain inlay, onlay, or crown.  Inlays and onlays are like puzzle pieces that replace lost tooth parts.  Crowns cover the whole tooth and help to splint cracks in tooth structure.  Any of these three can also be made from gold or plastic.

            Teeth with spontaneous pain, throbbing pain, or constant pain will most often require a root canal.  Fortunately, technology has made this therapy quicker and much less painful than the old stereotype.

            Unfortunately, not all broken teeth can be fixed.  Sometimes, the best option is to remove an infected tooth.  It is important to remember, though, that it is almost always more expensive over a lifetime to replace a lost tooth than it is to repair an existing tooth.  It’s hard to beat what God gave us to start with.

            Until next week, keep smiling.

-Please send questions and comments to Drs. Parrish at