Does a hit tooth almost always die?
December 21, 2010 7:26 PM   Subscribe

I fell on my face ice skating two days ago and hit one of my upper front teeth directly on the ice. I've read plenty about teeth dying after trauma. Is this usually the case?

I went to the dentist today and she said the x-rays looked good. It is ever so slightly pushed back and not wiggly. The tooth responded well to the ice and electricity tests. However, she said there is a chance it could die within the next year anyhow. She was guarded about telling me it would all be OK. I'm just wondering has anyone whacked a tooth pretty good and NOT had it die later?
posted by i_love_squirrels to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
I have, although the tooth was in limbo for awhile. It used to make a horrific popping noise whenever I was out in the cold, and it would hurt a bit, too.

I hurt the tooth when I flipped over the handlebars on my bicycle and hit my mouth pretty bad. The top front tooth was unhappy for years -- seriously, five years. It did that popping thing for five years. But then it stopped doing it, and my dentist said that it must have recovered from the trauma. She had previously told me that it might need a root canal, so we were both pretty happy when it magically got better on its own.

There's nothing you can really do but be good to your teeth for awhile, I don't think. Try using toothpaste for sensitive teeth, if it's bothering you, and cross your fingers.
posted by k8lin at 7:30 PM on December 21, 2010

A blow to a front tooth may cause the nerve and blood supply to become disrupted to it. If it tested normally to pulp tests today it may still, unfortunately, die later.

If the root is not fractured but the tooth is dead, it may still be in your mouth for the rest of your life after endodontic treatment is performed.

Another complication is that a front tooth may discolor after trauma. This can be sometimes mitigated with localized bleaching. Sometimes it may need restorative dentistry (veneer) to look right.
posted by Cuspidx at 7:49 PM on December 21, 2010

I completely broke off the bottom half of my front tooth when I was middle-school age. I fell down while running and smacked my tooth on pavement pretty hard. Nothing bad happened after that moment, I just have part of a fake tooth now. I'm very grateful that I live in modern times when cosmetic dentistry exists!
posted by belau at 7:57 PM on December 21, 2010

I broke off one of my teeth (#10) when I smashed up the ones next to it. My dentist, like others, said it might or might not die, and capped it with plastic.

There's a faint line where the plastic meets the tooth, but it's not noticeable more than a foot away - and even then just barely, and it's just fine a few years later - so far. :)
posted by kcm at 8:03 PM on December 21, 2010

I had a significant injury as a child and some of the affected teeth died and some didn't so no, it is certainly not inevitable.
posted by nanojath at 8:11 PM on December 21, 2010

My son hit his tooth in a skateboarding incident. There was lots of blood and the tooth turned grey, but it stayed in. Eventually the tooth turned white again, and remained in for a few more years until it fell out on its own (it was a baby tooth). My understanding is that teeth can bruise, and that's what the discoloration was. So cheer up, it might not happen.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:33 PM on December 21, 2010

I broke my two front teeth last year. One of them died and I had to get a root canal and bleaching. The other lived. Both were capped. It took the one that died a good nine months to stop feeling loose.
posted by Logic Sheep at 9:13 PM on December 21, 2010

My friend rolled up my face in one of the power windows on his car, cracking one of my upper incisors in the process. It had been chipped twice before, once when I fell out of a tree and once when I was trying to drink a glass of water with too much zeal. As a consequence of prematurity, I have weak enamel, and it didn't take much to noticeably damage the tooth.

The tooth has a prominent chip in its surface now, but it didn't die and continues to function just fine.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 9:33 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I was about 10, I knocked out one of my top front teeth in a playground accident. The dentist recommended getting a root canal in both teeth, anticipating just this sort of thin. I waved it off.

10 years later, I learned that there actually had been more extensive trauma meriting a root canal. My gums started bleeding profusely and I absolutely needed emergency dental surgery right away - when I was studying abroad in Kenya.

Do what you need to do to take care of it now. Ask your dentist if a root canal, or anything else, is called for.
posted by rkent at 9:49 PM on December 21, 2010

Sadly I can't reassure you that the tooth will survive, but things may not turn out too badly anyway.

If the root is not fractured but the tooth is dead, it may still be in your mouth for the rest of your life after endodontic treatment is performed.

This is what happened to me. I got whacked in the mouth by a piece of metal on the end of a rope while climbing when I was about seventeen. The tooth that bore the brunt died, and over the course of the next two or three years discolored somewhat (it gained a slightly weird purplish shade). It didn't give me any other trouble. About five years after it happened an endodontist drilled out the root and bleached the tooth from the inside -- not particularly pleasant, but not traumatic as the tooth had no sensation. The tooth was then pinned to help support it.

Thirty-five years later the tooth is still in my mouth, giving no more trouble than any of my other teeth.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 10:18 PM on December 21, 2010

My brother slid face first into a rock once, while going at a pretty good clip. His tooth seemed to die - it was gray for about a year. And then it came back to life! We call it his Lazarus tooth.

So no, not a definite fate. But I would find out from your dentist if you can have appointments every three months instead of every six, so that you can monitor this closely.
posted by punchtothehead at 5:09 AM on December 22, 2010

Just chiming in to say I also don't know if it will survive, but I had a similar meeting with my dentist ten years ago, and the tooth did ultimately need a root canal (though, I did get to keep the tooth itself).

I got hit full on in the face with a softball (misnomer if I ever heard one) and hurt one of my front teeth and bit my tongue in half (have you ever had stitches on your tongue? Not fun).

I went to the hospital for the stitches, and followed up with my dentist and he gave me a similar speech - looks okay for now, let me know if anything changes. Two months later it was still hurting and sensitive to heat/cold so I got a root canal. I've had it for ten years, and I had it redone once about two years ago (because the tooth was yellowing). No big deal. It has never caused me any issues aside from being a slightly darker color than my other teeth.
posted by CharlieSue at 7:15 AM on December 22, 2010

In high school I caught an elbow to the mouth during a basketball game. The tooth discolored and died. I was forced to get a cap placed over that tooth. To be honest, since the tooth was dead, there was no pain during the dental work.
posted by mmascolino at 8:52 AM on December 22, 2010

Most of my own story is here.

My tooth was almost completely pushed back; I kept it for 16 years. Implants are a pain in the butt and pricey to boot, but a remarkably adequate long term solution if the tooth does fail.

My point is, that even the worst case scenario isn't all that bad, so long as you stay on top of things.

I don't mean to minimize the impact that an unexpected $3500 dental bill can have on ones finances, or to imply that everyone can afford such a bill.
posted by endless_forms at 10:01 AM on December 22, 2010

Another face-planter here, but on concrete. I chipped one of my front teeth and loosened the other -- it was agony to talk, I had no idea the tongue touches the front teeth that much when you speak.

The dentist said let's wait and see; there were cracks in the enamel that she could see under strong light. The loose tooth gradually got better over the next six months or so. It's now ten years later and I still have it, no pain or looseness. The tooth is a little darker, and under strong illumination you can still see the cracks, but the dentist says the root looks good so I should have no further problems.
posted by phliar at 12:55 PM on December 22, 2010

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