Dental fractures due to trauma are classified on an Ellis scale that rates the severity and extent of the damage. A Class II fracture includes damage to the outermost enamel layer and the interior dentin but stops short of damaging the interior root canal system. Teeth with a Class II fracture can appear yellower and feel more sensitive. Cracks in the dentin can also potentially lead to infection within the tooth.
How can your general dentistry office treat a Class II fracture and the potential symptoms?
If you visit the dentist immediately after suffering the fracture, your dentist might place a temporary filling over the fracture to prevent the damage from worsening before a more permanent treatment can be put into place.
Temporary filings are often made of a zinc oxide-based cement. The dentist mixes the cement and inserts the malleable material into the cavity-like crack caused by the fracture. The cement hardens in place and the dentist then carves the edge so that your tooth has a smooth surface.
When you are able to come back for a more permanent fix, the temporary filling is removed using a combination of handheld tools and injected water.
Your dentist might replace the temporary filling with a permanent filling if the damage is restricted to a small area on the dentin. Permanent filling materials include metal amalgams, which look less natural but have greater strength, and more natural looking resin materials.
Your dentist can advise you on the best dental filling material for your particular situation. In general, you will likely want a metal filling on a grinding tooth like a molar, which takes on a lot of bite pressure and is also in the rear of your mouth where the metal coloration won't be as noticeable. You can leave the tooth-colored fillings for more prominent locations in your mouth.
Does the fractured tooth have significant or widespread damage to the dentin? Your dentist might recommend a dental crown instead of a permanent filling. The dental crown can be made with similar materials as a filling but rather than going inside the tooth, the crown fits over the tooth's entire exterior.
Metal crowns, like fillings, are the strongest but also the least natural looking. But there are porcelain crowns with a metal base that combine form and function. The porcelain gives the tooth a natural appearance while the metal offers more strength than porcelain would offer alone.