Why do teeth break?
The teeth are too weak, eg have fillings or decay
The force on the teeth is too strong, eg accident, grinding, inappropriate use
Unhappy combination of the above
Fillings: It is relatively difficult to break a sound, original condition, tooth. Usually it takes a violent trauma. This is because a sound tooth has an ability to deal with flexing and movement.
However, once there is a break in the tooth structure the tooth is never the same again. We cannot completely restore its ability to deal with stresses; it cannot be as good as new.
The larger the decay/filling the more likely it is for the tooth to fracture along weaknesses.
It may be inappropriate to use white filling materials in high stress posterior areas, as they will break more readily.
Crowns may be required to give overall coverage on heavily filled or root filled teeth and, incidentally, to make them pretty again.
The best defence against fracture is not to damage the tooth in the first place, a bit late for a number of us now!
Decay: Decay can undermine sections of tooth (initially painlessly) until a piece breaks off and you (and your tongue) suddenly become aware of it. Decay is not inevitable or desirable, floss and have your teeth checked regularly.
Accident: Life decides that you needed a hit in the mouth
Grinding: Stress from the day can be taken out on your teeth at night with grinding or clenching habits. The early signs can be: sore, tired face in the morning, sore jaw joints, and a complaining partner.
We can fit bite splints/night splints if your teeth appear to be at risk but if you are grinding during the day, you may need to look at changing your life for the sake of your teeth.
Inappropriate use: Teeth are for food only. The front incisors are especially vulnerable to excessive forces. If you use your teeth to bite cello tape, thread, fingernails etc, then the forces you are producing on these thin edges can be extreme. This will, over time, lead to stress fractures and pieces of tooth will “just” fall off with eating something soft.
Just because you haven’t fractured a tooth yet by inappropriate use, doesn’t mean you will always get away with it. Remember, Minties and pork crackling are not foods.
The best tooth is one in the original condition, the more teeth that you can keep dentists from interfering with, the better your chances of having your teeth for life.