T-Scan Can Keep You from Swallowing Your Tooth

Aug 25, 2016, by Dr. Becky Coats

Recently, blogger Darren Orf shared what he described as “the most Homeric story” that he’s ever experienced: the time when he ate his own tooth and then had to “recover” it. The events took place in 2010, and since then technological changes mean that, hopefully, no one will ever have to undergo a similar experience with reconstructive dentistry.

Using Temporary Cement for a Permanent Dental Crown

The story begins when Orf was six years old and had a very high fever. As with many health conditions we experience while our teeth are maturing, this impacted the development of his tooth. Instead of developing a thick coating of enamel to protect the tooth from external conditions, Orf’s molars had only dentin on them, making them soft, brown, and sensitive to changes in temperature and pressure. They were also more vulnerable to decay and Orf reports that getting fillings was an annual tradition.

To try to get away from the perennial problems, Orf had a ceramic dental crown placed in 2010, when he was in college. The dentist wanted to try the fit out before permanently fixing the crown to the tooth, so they attached it with temporary cement.

Three days later, as he was eating a cup of noodles and trying to work hard on writing articles, Orf accidentally ate his tooth, or, rather, the ceramic crown. As he experienced searing pain, Orf contacted his dental office and found his only real option was to get his temporary crown replaced.

After making a frantic drive to get to the office before it closed, he thought he’d seen the end of the situation.

However, this was only phase one in the traumatizing situation. You see, the dental crown was expensive — over $1000 — and his insurance wouldn’t pay for a replacement. Neither Orf nor his parents could afford to pay for the replacement, either, so the only option was to recover his tooth. From his stool. At which point, it would be cleaned and put back in his mouth.

He was understandably traumatized by what ended up being a 20-minute search through his stool before he was able to recover the tooth, which was cleaned, as promised, and replaced. And has lasted fine ever since.

Why Dentists Used Temporary Cement in These Situations

It might seem like an unwise thing to do: bonding a permanent crown with temporary cement and then sending Orf out into the world with it. But there are very good reasons why it was commonly done.

The basic goal was to ensure that the dental crown was as perfectly fitted as possible. A poorly fitted dental crown might break prematurely. It might cause the tooth opposite it to wear down, chip, or crack during chewing. It may even cause or contribute to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). So the fit has to be perfect.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to properly fit a dental crown on the spot. You might not notice small differences in force that can become very significant over time, especially if your tooth or jaw are numbed or sensitive because of preparation or other causes. And dental tools like articulating paper aren’t very accurate for telling just how much force your teeth are experiencing. Using temporary cement allowed dentists to let patients take the tooth for a “test drive” and identify any potential issues over time with a natural bite.

Fortunately, technology has helped solve this problem. T-Scan digital bite measurements allow us to see exactly the amount of force being put on your natural teeth and dental crowns in real time. This shows us when a dental crown isn’t fitting properly and might need adjusting, whether or not you can tell how much force is on the crown. That way, we can be sure of the fit in our office before you leave.

If you are looking for a Dallas area dental office that uses the highest technology to give the best results (and avoid unpleasant complications), please call (817) 481-6888 today for an appointment with cosmetic dentist Dr. Becky Coats at Grapevine Dental Care.