Every dentist has to stare down a number of broken, fractured, and chipped teeth in his or her career. Thankfully, dentists also have the training and skills to fix these damaged teeth. More often than not, the cusps, or pointy outcroppings of tooth bone, are the damaged part on molar teeth. If you have chipped a molar in this fashion, the following is what you can expect your dentist to do. 

It Starts With a Bite Wing X-Ray

While your dentist can certainly shine a flashlight into the newly formed crevasse of your chipped molar, a dental x-ray can really give the dentist a good view and a good idea of the extent of the damage. The x-ray reveals if the chipped cusp has affected the rest of the molar or if it has reached down into the nerve of the tooth. If it looks like most of the rest of the tooth is fine, then your dentist can proceed with the course of treatment that he/she feels is appropriate. If there is more damage, such as a fractured molar that is broken down to the pulp of the tooth, swelling in the gums around the molar (which indicates infection in the tooth), or decay, the dentist may have to take a different course of action to repair more than just the chipped and missing cusp. 

Then Your Dentist Forms a Treatment Plan

There are a number of ways this treatment plan could go. For the sake of argument, say that you have one of two treatment pathways. Either you have a simple cusp break/chip, or you have a cusp break/chip with more severe underlying issues. 

A simple cusp break/chip cannot simply be filled like a cavity. You might think that, considering that it is a break with a hole in the side or back of the molar. However, your dentist will explain to you that simply filling this hole and building up the area where the broken cusp once was will only result in that built-up and restored area chipping off and breaking again sometime in the future. A proper restoration in this case is to put a cap or crown on the tooth. Your dentist will have to schedule a two- or three-hour block of time to file down the tooth and create the stump of tooth on which to place the crown/cap. You may have to return a second time to the dental office to have the crown/cap affixed to the molar stump.

A more complex cusp break with decay underneath an older filling, several fractures in the tooth itself, and/or an exposed nerve requires multiple treatment steps. First and foremost, your dentist will recommend that you have the old filling removed so they can address the underlying decay. Then the hairline fractures or obvious fractures in the tooth have to be sealed before the dentist can sand the tooth down into a stump. If there is nerve damage and/or signs of infection in the tooth, a root canal may be required. Then your dentist has to build up the stump just enough to affix a crown/cap. This treatment plan may require up to four separate visits to complete. 

Finally, Payments Are Made

As with any dental procedure, your dentist will expect payment upon completion of services. Ask your dentist what types of payment options are available, given what your insurance will pay and the remaining costs to you. Most dentists will take payment plans and credit card payments. Some dentists also offer special financing or dental credit cards to help you cover the costs of restoring your molar and its broken cusp. 

Contact a dentist in your area for more information.