A couple of days ago, a middle-aged woman who we’ll call Beth, brought a crown into the dental school in a plastic bag. Her crown had fallen off of one of her molar teeth about six months ago.
Unfortunately, she didn’t think it was very urgent to get it back into her mouth. Beth waited until she had another reason to come to the dentist and brought her crown along with her. She was hoping we could glue it back on. We couldn’t.
Beth’s tooth was so badly decayed that it had to be extracted. When we told her the news, she was quite surprised, as it had only been six months since it fell off.
A couple of months ago, I wrote about what to do when a crown falls off of your tooth. In that article, I said the following:
If your crown does fall off, remember that you need to get to your dentist as soon as possible. Don’t put it back on and then neglect going to visit your dentist. You could infect the tooth and in the worst case scenario you may need to have the tooth extracted a few years down the line.
This patient is a great example of why it is so important to see the dentist after your crown falls off.
Think About Why The Crown Fell Off
Crowns that are sitting on healthy tooth structure don’t generally just fall off. The reason most crowns come off is because there was a leak that slowly allowed saliva and bacteria to enter in between the crown and the tooth. Over time, the bacteria can cause decay to occur under the crown. This decay weakens the bond between the crown and the tooth and eventually causes the crown to fall off.
What Happens In Your Mouth When You Leave the Crown Off
If you just leave the crown off and procrastinate a visit to the dentist for a check-up, you could be allowing the problem to get much worse. Enamel (the outermost layer of the tooth) is pretty resistant to tooth decay. Dentin, the softer layer under the enamel (click here to read about the different layers of our teeth), is not nearly as resistant to tooth decay.
The crown replaces the enamel and some dentin on the tooth. When the crown falls off, it leaves behind a tooth that was shaved down to hold a crown on it. When the tooth got shaved down, most of the enamel was drilled off, leaving cavity-susceptible dentin.
Not only is dentin more susceptible to decay, it takes a lot less acidity to erode it away (more particularly a problem if you regularly drink one of the many drinks that dissolve tooth structure!)
If the Crown Fell Off Because of a Cavity…
If the crown fell off due to tooth decay and you leave it off, then every time you eat you are feeding the bacteria growing on that tooth and further breaking it down. In fact, those bacteria will continue to multiply, and before you know it, they will end up eating away what was left of that tooth, making an extraction necessary. For a closer look at how these bacteria eat away your teeth, read What Every Human Needs to Know About Plaque.
Beth didn’t know that it was important to come to the dentist when her crown fell off. But now, you do.
If you want to keep your teeth healthy, it is important to make an appointment with your dentist if your crown falls off – right away.
Do you have any questions about crowns or bridges? Please leave them below in the comments section and I’ll get back to you. Thanks for reading!