Dental crowns are sometimes called “caps”. They’re like protective helmets that go over your tooth, safeguarding it from additional breakage or fractures. Dental crowns are designed to keep your tooth functioning for several more years, when—because of wear or decay—it might otherwise break apart. Unlike fillings that go inside of your tooth, crowns go around the outside, covering the entire visible tooth up to your gum tissues. And if your dental crown falls out of your mouth, it needs immediate attention. Knowing what to do if your dental crown comes loose or falls off will help you avoid late-night calls to your dentist and keep you out of pain.
But dental crowns don’t work like that. You don’t want to try to permanently glue it back, because you’ll trap bacteria and saliva underneath it, setting you up for a host of other complications. You will most likely want to get a temporary crown and have a permanent crown made and properly reattached with dental adhesive.
Instead, store your crown in some type of sealed container. Maybe it’s a Ziplock bag or a piece of Tupperware. The point is, don’t lose it. You need to be able to bring it to your dentist’s office to see if they can bond or cement it back in place.
If it’s a front tooth and during the daytime, you can use a smear of toothpaste or temporary dental cement from the drugstore to—let me emphasize—temporarily put it back in place. And when I say temporarily, I mean until you can get out of public and only if you’re 100% certain you’re not accidentally going to swallow it. If that happens…well…you’re probably not getting it back.
Situation 1: If your dental crown falls out and you’re in pain, yes, it’s a serious dental emergency.
Situation 2: If the existing crown that broke off is in the front of your mouth and everyone is going to see it, yes, it’s an emergency.
Situation 3: If the tooth is not visible when you’re smiling, nothing hurts, and you can eat without chewing on that side of your mouth, it’s more of an “urgent” situation than an emergency.
Emergency dentistry is when you need to get to a dentist’s office immediately. Preferably the same day, even if the office is closed or you’re out of town on vacation. Whereas urgent needs can typically be tended to during the next business day, saving you the expense and frustration of accessing after-hours emergency care.
Absolutely, under no circumstances, should you chew with that tooth. If you need to eat between now and when you see your dentist, stick to softer textures of foods and carefully chew them on the other side of your mouth. Don’t rush, because you might forget and bite down on the tooth where your crown fell out. Heaven forbid that happens because if it does, you might split your tooth in half and then need a root canal too.
If the tooth is sensitive, you can get a piece of sugar-free chewing gum or temporary filling kit and shape it over the tooth to prevent any unnecessary irritation. In the meantime, take an over-the-counter pain reliever like Aleve or Tylenol as needed.
Call your dentist right after your crown fell out and be sure to leave a message if they’re closed. Someone should be checking messages and give you a call back to let you know what else you need to be doing until the office opens. They can also plan ahead and ask you to come in first thing the next day.
Crowns essentially replace all of the enamel on your tooth, bonding directly to the dentin layer underneath. So, when dental crowns fall off, this weaker portion of the underlying tooth it exposes. Dentin is extremely sensitive and can decay at a much quicker rate than tooth enamel because it’s less dense.
Waiting too long to have your crown repaired will only lead to additional tooth decay, breaks, or in a worst-case scenario, an abscessed tooth.
The treatment your dentist recommends will depend on the circumstances of your individual tooth. Usually, it’s going to be one of the following options:
Hopefully, the tooth under your dental crown has nothing wrong with it. If your crown is fairly new and the bonding agent came loose, it can simply be recemented or bonded back onto your tooth. But don’t try to do it yourself. Your dentist needs things to line up just perfectly; anything off by even fractures of a millimeter can cause serious tooth and TMJ issues. Your dentist will also need to make sure the tooth is completely decontaminated before the crown is bonded back.
When structural damage such as fractures or decay has changed the shape of your tooth, it usually isn’t an option to re-use your existing dental crown. Especially if it’s already several years old. A buildup and possibly a pin will be needed before fitting you with a new “cap”.
If any decay or cracks have worked their way through the remaining tooth and into the nerve, a root canal will be required.
If the tooth is too eroded or broken, there may not be enough left to work with. A tooth extraction is the only choice that’s left.
There are a few different reasons why a crown can fall out. Such as:
The longer you wait to get your tooth and crown fixed, the more expensive the treatment will cost. In a best-case scenario, your dentist may be able to bond your crown back on without charging anything more than an exam fee. But if the damage is serious, you might be paying for a root canal, buildup, pin, and a new crown on top of everything else. The most affordable option is to see your dentist immediately and go from there.
If you try to fix things yourself, there’s a good chance that you may add to the treatment costs. Don’t do it! Even I wouldn’t if it were my own mouth.
If your crown fell out, call your dentist ASAP. In the meantime, don’t chew with that tooth and put your crown somewhere where you won’t lose it. Get to your dentist’s office as soon as you can and never, ever try to glue your crown back by yourself.
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