My son broke his tooth -- now what?
April 23, 2015 7:09 PM   Subscribe

My 9-year-old had an altercation with a door today and knocked off half of a top front tooth. We got him to the dentist right away, and they glued the other half of the tooth back on. What happens now?

For example: the dentist said he should avoid biting down on food with his front teeth, and that if he wants to eat something crunchy, like an apple, he should cut it up and chew it with his back teeth. Like, forever. Is that right? Can my son never eat an apple like a normal person again?

Should I expect this bonding to come loose and he'll have to get the half-tooth glued on again from time to time through his childhood? Or is it pretty common for the tooth to stay bonded for life?

Any other tips or advice from people who've chipped or broken a (permanent) tooth in childhood?
posted by escabeche to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
They stuck an artificial half tooth on me. 15+ years later, still doing fine. I eat apples normally and stuff. If it comes loose and falls off eventually, they will just have to fix it again.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:11 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

It didn't happen in childhood, but I have a bond on a front incisor that's pushing a decade old, and I did not have to worry about it a week? If that? It's been a complete non-issue and I don't remember having to cut up apples or anything.
posted by clavicle at 7:18 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I chipped a front tooth pretty badly when I was 17. Since I didn't have the part that chipped off (and maybe because this was thirty years ago?), I had to get a crown. The crown held up until about 2 years ago, then I had a new crown put on. Crowns are not cheap but they do last a while if they are done properly.
posted by tuesdayschild at 7:19 PM on April 23, 2015

My brother was a little daredevil and chipped a few teeth as a young kid. He got them all bonded. Bonding is expensive (luckily we have a dentist in the family) but man, it looks perfect and they've held up. My brother can be a damn idiot sometimes and still does stupid things like opens bottles with his teeth, the fool and finally re-broke one of them a couple years ago (so, probably going 15-20 years on the initial repair). Got it bonded again, looks perfect again.

If you can swing it, bonding is what I would recommend.
posted by phunniemee at 7:19 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have two friends with teeth like this. Both of them have had to have their teeth rebonded (or whatever the term is) due to it failing at some point, but it was never a big deal for either of them. They didn't do anything to particularly protect their teeth though, and routinely ate apples or other crunchy things with their front teeth. From what I can tell, the artificial part of the tooth is pretty strong.
posted by I_love_the_rain at 7:20 PM on April 23, 2015

Oh hey! I did this when I was about nine, knocking off half my front tooth. Mine was replaced with false material, as the chip couldn't be saved.

escabeche: "Like, forever. Is that right? Can my son never eat an apple like a normal person again?

They always tell me that and I never listen. I mean, I give it a few day to set, and then I forget. I'd fuss at him for a week or so, and then just remind him to be careful.

Should I expect this bonding to come loose and he'll have to get the half-tooth glued on again from time to time through his childhood? Or is it pretty common for the tooth to stay bonded for life?"

I had to have my bonding replaced several times before I went to college, through a combination of "being a kid" and "mandatory sports" and that bonding materials used to be a lot weaker. They have improved a LOT over the last 30 years! Since college I've had it replaced just once in the last 20 years. (Every time they do it, the lasers are cooler, the materials feel and taste more natural, and the process is faster. And every time, the bonding is stronger and lasts longer.) I was actually just thinking about talking to my dentist about it because my tooth surface is wearing a little faster than the artificial surface after 15 years or so, and it feels a bit uneven to my tongue.

When the bonding breaks, it usually takes a teeny bit more tooth with it, which is never very noticeable at the moment, but is noticeable between when I was 9 and now. Also if he has artificial materials used, they don't yellow and if you take poor enough care of your teeth, you may actually have to have the bonding replaced to make it more yellow because it's whiter than your natural tooth. And yeah, like Moon Orb said, there's no warning when it breaks, it just pops off. Once I was eating a salad and touched the fork with my tooth and BAM, bonding falls off.

BTW, I had orthodonture on the bonded tooth, it was no problem. (Traditional style metal braces glued to the teeth, no problem.)

Occasionally the nerves feel a teeny bit weird in that tooth but mostly I don't notice it, it's never really been a bother except when, you know, it falls out and you have 48 INCREDIBLY ANNOYING hours until you can see the dentist. Orthodontic wax, btw, is the best thing to stick in the broken spot so you don't cut your damn tongue on your damn tooth. Sometimes you can pick some up at the drugstore or the dentist to tide you over while you wait for an appointment.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:22 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have a long vertical chip out of my front tooth (i bit a fan) that has had every possible kind of fix ASIDE FROM bonding. none of them have lasted more than a couple of months.

a lower front tooth from a different incident is bonded and i am reasonably sure i could chew through steve rogers' shield with it.

tl;dr +1 for bonding
posted by poffin boffin at 7:24 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I typed a very long and hilarious answer before being logged out, and I'm on my phone so won't type it again, but suffice to say that after losing half a tooth when I was about 10, it lasted until a roast beef sandwich just after my 18th birthday. After that, it was crowned, which was awesome and involved color matching the surrounding teeth and making a mold and a whole lot of fun stuff. That's lasted another 6 years or so with no issues so far.
posted by papayaninja at 7:24 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've had pretty much the same experience as Eyebrows McGee. Broke both front teeth in a skateboarding accident when I was 9 (in 1978), looked like a vampire for a few days, got the bonding, had to have it replaced every couple of years until 1996 and then haven't had an issue with it since.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:49 PM on April 23, 2015

I have a bond on a lower incisor that was supposed to last about 5 or so years, and it is pushing twenty years old now. I have never worried about it. The assumption is that it will break off someday and a proper crown will be put on.
posted by rockindata at 8:09 PM on April 23, 2015

Cracked front tooth in half at age six, had it bonded, still holding up awesomely in my mid-thirties despite my mistreatment of it (chewing on pens, biting open packages, etc). Bonding all the way.
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:13 PM on April 23, 2015

I broke a front tooth biting on a fork in 92; the bonding has held up so far.
posted by brujita at 8:19 PM on April 23, 2015

I broke very large pieces off both my top front teeth in a bike accident 17 years ago. I believe we never found the broken-off pieces; in any case the dentist built up the teeth with filling material instead. I've had no problems with those teeth, and haven't had to take any special care with food. My other teeth have yellowed (thanks to coffee and tea) and are now a slightly different color than the filling material, but that's never bothered me. I expect like other dental work it might need replacement or repair someday.
posted by mbrubeck at 8:31 PM on April 23, 2015

Nothing's stronger/better than natural enamel, and that broke, so sure, it's possible it will have to be bonded again. I think it will depend on the position and nature of the crack, your son's bite, and I guess the bonding material.

the dentist said he should avoid biting down on food with his front teeth, and that if he wants to eat something crunchy, like an apple, he should cut it up and chew it with his back teeth. Like, forever.

What? That sounds unreasonable. There's got to be another (albeit probably more expensive) option - an implant, something. Was that discussed? Maybe get a second opinion.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:59 PM on April 23, 2015

Apple seems excessively cautious. I broke a quarter of one of my front teeth off in grade school, and I've broken the repair off it twice in the intervening 19 years since - once on rock candy aka hard crystallized sugar and once on a really crusty bread roll. The back of the fix (no idea if it's a bond or what) is starting to wear/chip now a tiny bit but from the front it's still fine and my dentist said it's still structurally sound. I assume in a couple more years I may need to get it fixed again but the crusty roll incident was at least 7 years ago so the fixes last quite a while. I do avoid biting on something as hard as super hard crusts or rock candy from the front now - I kind of angle food items like those and tear off chunks with the other side of my mouth and focusing on the canines - but apples and similarly softer crunch items are no problem.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:35 PM on April 23, 2015

Mine chipped 40 years ago. Since then I had to have it repair twice. No big deal
posted by Mac-Expert at 11:59 PM on April 23, 2015

Mine chipped 48 years ago on three corners (don't ask). That was before dentists just glued stuff back, so I had to wait until age 15 before the first repair was done (yay childhood); that repair also was not so great and stuff occasionally chipped off again.
Technology improved: the last fix is from 1987, still holding up.

Yes, you do learn to avoid biting off a huge crunchy apple with your front teeth. It seems stupid, but its workable. The idea pretty much being that you don't just rip out, and replace within an implant, a healthy tooth because it's merely chipped.
posted by Namlit at 12:32 AM on April 24, 2015

Chipped a front tooth about 25 years ago in bike crash. 5 years after that the tooth started to die and turn color. Had root canal done. The other front tooth also started to die from the trauma of the nearby tooth (happens sometimes), had root canal on that tooth. 8 years later the original cracked tooth broke (eating bacon) up near the gum line. Tooth pulled and replaced with bridge. About 6 years ago the other front tooth the bridge was mounted to on one side got weak from decay (If I remember right). I now have a new bridge that replaces both front teeth.
posted by LoveHam at 4:25 AM on April 24, 2015

My experience was similar to LoveHam's - I broke a tooth - chipped it on the edge of a swimming pool - about 40 years ago. The tooth died a few years later (painlessly) - had a root canal (also painless because the nerve was dead) and had the tooth bonded. I have had the bonding replaced or touched up a few times but am able to bite apples and the like. My current dentist would like to do a crown but I think that's about her profit because the tooth is fine.
posted by leslies at 5:32 AM on April 24, 2015

I broke my two front teeth when I was 11 and had the pieces bonded back on. I never had any issues and ate things like apples normally (maybe not right away? I don't really remember it being an issue or anything). I never re-broke them but I did have the teeth replaced with veneers in my early 20s since the bonding was starting to chip/get discolored. I'm actually really happy with them - they look and feel really natural and strong. People are always surprised when I tell them they aren't real.
posted by Shadow Boxer at 7:37 AM on April 24, 2015

I had a crown that lasted from 1978ish until about 4-5 years ago. The only reason I had to replace it was because somehow the root canal that I'd had to go with the original crown decided that it hadn't been done properly and became infected. So I lost the crown due to having to have the root canal re-done.

I will say though that as you get older your gums naturally begin to recede a bit. It was obvious at the top of my original crown, there was sort of a greyish line that didn't affect my smile too much so I ignored it. My hubby on the other hand had veneers (are those the same as bonding? I don't know) that were poorly done by student dentists and within less than 10 years it was pretty obvious that his gums had receded and there were weird lines and ridges on the front of his teeth. So he had those removed and (due to very poor overall health of his teeth) had all of those teeth root canaled and crowned.
posted by vignettist at 7:57 AM on April 24, 2015

I had an altercation with a wall when I was 12. As the nerve was damaged it began a slow process of mummification (so they say) over the years. My tooth turned real black. So my advice would be : pay attention to the shape the nerve is in.
posted by nicolin at 8:10 AM on April 24, 2015

my oldest chipped a tooth and the dentist used something to form her a tooth. The fake tooth still stands and she eats whatever however she wants, but the tooth as a whole died and she had to have a root canal, as nicolin says watch for nerve damage.
posted by domino at 9:31 AM on April 24, 2015

8 or 9 years old, over a quarter century ago, chipped off a quarter of one of my front teeth.

Cheapo mall dentist bonded a bit of fake tooth onto it. My only cavity, ever, was under that bond.

Have had it touched up once in my late teens (after repairing the cavity). Apples are fine. My new dentist tried to up-sell me a crown to replace it but it works just fine so I turned it down.

Might want to give it at least a month before trying apples, to allow to epoxy (glue?) in the bond to cure. Learning how to eat an apple with a pocket knife is more bad-arse than chomping on an apple like a barbarian.

Depending on where your kiddo's tooth split, the graft *might* turn dark over time. If it bothers him, he can get it replaced with an artificial bit or get a crown on it. I'm a smoker and the fake bit is a little bit lighter than the surrounding teeth. I home-bleach my teeth every so often to match the artificial bit.
posted by porpoise at 3:37 PM on April 24, 2015

I have bonds on my two front teeth to close a large gap. They last about ten years and then break at the least opportune times, but they are inexpensive compared to crowns or veneers. My son broke off a front tooth in high school. The bond repair lasted about fifteen years. I try to be careful with hard candy and I'm particular about not using a bent fork because I don't want to whack one of the teeth by accident, but other than that no problems.
posted by tamitang at 8:22 PM on April 24, 2015

I did that 20 years ago and need to get it fixed again every 8 years or so. I found that being careful didn't matter... it would re-break pretty randomly from just chewing non-hard food at just the wrong angle or something. After 10 years or so I stopped being careful with it and eating apples, etc. never caused a problem.
posted by metasarah at 3:08 PM on April 26, 2015

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