Your cusps are the pointed parts on the crowns of your teeth. Your canine teeth only have one cusp, while your premolars have two, and your molars each have four or five cusps. The purpose of these cusps is to aid in chewing, but sometimes, your cusps can break. Here are four things you need to know about broken cusps.
What causes broken cusps?
Your cusps can break if you chew something that's too hard for your enamel to handle. Things like ice cubes, bones, popcorn kernels, olive pits, and hard candies can break your teeth, so be careful about what you eat. Gnawing on non-food items like pens and pencils can also lead to broken cusps.
If you have bruxism, your cusps can be broken by the forces associated with clenching and grinding your teeth. It only takes about 28 pounds per square inch of pressure to chew a hard food like a carrot, but the forces of clenching can reach higher than 500 pounds per square inch. That's a huge amount of force that your teeth aren't designed to handle, and the result could be a piece of your cusp breaking off.
What are the signs of broken cusps?
If only the enamel, the outer layer of your tooth, has broken off, you may not feel any pain. If you touch your tongue to the affected tooth, you may notice an uncomfortably sharp area on your tooth. If the cusp has broken off lower and has exposed the dentin, the sensitive tissue beneath the enamel, you may feel sensitivity when you bite or chew. You may also feel sensitivity to cold or hot foods or drinks.
If you take a look at your tooth, you'll be able to see that part of it has broken off. When you notice this, you need to make an appointment with your dentist right away, even if you're not feeling much pain. Broken cusps need to be treated promptly, like all tooth injuries.
How serious are broken cusps?
The good thing about broken cusps is that they don't usually damage the pulp. The pulp contains blood vessels and nerves, and it keeps your teeth alive. Fortunately, the pulp is deep within your tooth, so a broken cusp won't usually come close to it. If a tooth injury damages the pulp, you'll need a root canal treatment and possibly an extraction, so an intact pulp is a very good thing.
Still, a broken cusp needs to be treated. If the broken edges are sharp, you could cut your tongue on them.
Can dentists repair broken cusps?
Dentists repair broken cusps by placing a crown on top of your damaged chewing surface. A crown is a cap that is placed over top of your entire tooth. To prepare your tooth for the procedure, your dentist will file down the sides and top of your tooth. Next, your dentist will take a mold of your tooth, and a laboratory will create a custom-made crown to fit over top of it. A temporary crown will be applied to your tooth to protect it while you wait for your permanent crown.
When the crown is ready, it will be cemented on top of your tooth, and it can remain in place for as long as 15 years if you take good care of it. To prolong the life of your new crown, make sure to keep brushing and flossing around your crown and to avoid biting hard things like ice cubes.
Broken cusps can be painful, so if you think you have one, get it treated by a dentist right away. You can find a dentist if you go to sites like the one linked to here.