Chip off the ol' molar
May 21, 2009 9:00 PM   Subscribe

How worried should I be about my chipped tooth?

So I found this previous question, which is almost tailor-made to my situation as of tonight. I'll be following the "don't sweat it, maybe get some over-the-counter temporary filling" advice from that thread, so I'm less panicked about that than I was earlier tonight.

However, I am concerned about why it chipped. There was no impact, no particularly hard food that caused it. I was just flossing back there, felt a little snag and assumed it was a piece of food, and came back instead with two prongs of my top right molar. I have no pain or anything like that and my teeth look more or less fine, but is it possible that the looks are deceiving and my teeth are about to fall out en masse due to some unnoticed systemic decay?

I exaggerate a bit, but I am troubled. I'm currently without dental insurance, haven't been to a dentist in two+ years, and not in an awesome financial position to have to take on a bunch of medical bills.

Do I need to bite the bullet (not literally) and make an appointment even if it means my credit cards will have to wait a while longer to be paid off? Or is this something I can put a band-aid on (not literally) and postpone until I hopefully find a job with dental benefits in the nearish future?
posted by Riki tiki to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm in a similar situation with a couple of teeth, I suspect they're lost fillings though. My mantra at the moment is as long as they don't [knock on wood] have a toothache and try to keep the 'crater' clean, they can wait. It's been months for one of them, no different today than when the filling/tooth broke. That said, look to see if there's a dental college in your area, it will be cheaper to fix. They'll have less experience, but for a molar, not-quite-perfect should be fine.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 9:13 PM on May 21, 2009

The dentist can apply a white bonding agent if there's a ledge to hold it, unless its under the gum. It's so cheap and fast that I forgot how much it cost me. The alternative was to crown it, which removes most of the upper tooth and costs more than a weekend in Vegas.
posted by Brian B. at 9:52 PM on May 21, 2009

I keep thinking I'll get around to seeing the dentist to fix the hole in my tooth, but I suspect I won't go until it starts to hurt. Been a year so far . . .
posted by Crotalus at 10:04 PM on May 21, 2009

However, I am concerned about why it chipped.

You probably cracked it years ago.
posted by Brian B. at 10:12 PM on May 21, 2009

Get some sort of aquapick thingie and use it. Salt water or a dental rinse. This will hold off further trouble as well as anything you can do on your own.

There may be more damage than you realize and you DON"T want an abcess.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 10:56 PM on May 21, 2009

As for why, I'd say unless it happens again, don't worry about it overly. It could have been cracked years ago as Brian B. said, a defect in the tooth itself, or . I chipped a tooth about 10 years ago opening the plastic wrapper on a hot dog of all things. Freak occurrence, nothing like it happened prior or in the 10 years since.
posted by barc0001 at 11:27 PM on May 21, 2009

I have had two chipped teeth (lower row, front and center) for almost exactly twenty years now. Every now and then they get a little sensitive.
posted by philip-random at 12:58 AM on May 22, 2009

Go get it checked out by a professional. Your credit cards can be replaced (in a manner of speaking). Teeth cannot.
posted by incessant at 3:00 AM on May 22, 2009

Get thee to a dentist. A couple years ago something very similar happened to me, I was flossing, caught a snag, and POP out came a chunk of a filling from a molar. Since it wasn't bothering me I waited a couple months before getting it fixed. The new filling wasn't effective, and I've had two infections inside the tooth (which are quite painful) and have had the tooth pulled. I'll be getting a dental implant to replace it, which is far far more expensive than going to the dentist right away would have been.
posted by borkencode at 8:14 AM on May 22, 2009

IAAD. get it checked, at least then you can make an informed decision as to whether or not it needs urgent care. waiting until it hurts always doubles or triples the cost of the solution.
explain your situation to your dentist, we are not ogres who will judge you on your situation, we are compassionate healthcare providers who will diagnose your problem, offer options for solving the problem and hopefully keep you out of pain.
posted by OHenryPacey at 8:46 PM on May 22, 2009

Best answer: "I don't have dental insurance" isn't an excuse to not see the dentist. You will reap what you sow. You should say "I don't prioritize my oral health like I should."

100 million people in the US don't have dental insurance, you are not the only one. Many practices don't even accept any insurance. People forget that dental insurance isn't like medical insurance. It usually pays for exams and cleanings and then 50% for everything else up to $1000. The companies aren't stupid, if you just do the cleaning and exams, you are already paying for it with your premium. Anything more than a filling will quickly go over your limit.

You really should get it looked at. Teeth don't just break. My guess is it is one of two things 1) you have a cavity and the unsupported enamel fractured or 2) you had a filling chip out. If it was choice 1, then the cavity will get worse until it hits the nerve, then you will need to extract the tooth or get a root canal, filling and crown. If it was #2, then it will be a plaque trap and you will get a cavity - then see #1. Very rare to crack a virgin unrestored tooth without trauma or biting something you shouldn't have, unless you have a parafunctional habit (grinding or clenching at night).

If you can just get a filling done now vs a root canal, filling, and crown later, you will be saving a lot of money.

If you have a cavity, then chances are there are more, if they can be caught early, you can save the teeth.

Oh yeah, I'm a dentist and see this everyday!

posted by amalgamator at 10:15 PM on May 23, 2009

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