What should you do if a temporary crown falls off? First things first, no need to panic.
The first thing to remember is that temporaries are… temporary. They are a bandaid we use for a short time.
Temporary crowns are merely a stopgap measure until the permanent crown can be placed. They’re keeping the tooth safe while we wait for the manufacture of the permanent crown.
Sometimes, even when you’ve taken the utmost care to avoid sticky or crunchy foods, a temporary crown will come off. This is usually caused by chewing too hard, occasionally improper installation of the temporary crown, but usually is just plain bad luck.
As a dentist I make temporary crowns for the following reasons
- To help the smile appear normal while we wait for the crown
- So you can eat normally!
- To limit sensitivity (to temperatures and sweet foods mostly)
But the main “dentist” reason I make a crown is because the teeth on either side can shift. If there is no temporary the neighbor teeth can move enough that the permanent crown doesn’t fit!
Losing a temporary is not a huge deal – and it really comes down the timing and the individual tooth as to whether it will need to be replaced.
Even if your temporary crown does not need to be replaced, you should contact your dental clinic if it comes off. Take the following measures until you can get assistance from a dental professional.
What to do when a temporary dental crown comes off
Step 1: Find the temporary crown and glue pieces
You should always try to find the pieces of the crown. If you can’t find them, moisten your finger with water and rub it along the tooth’s chewing surface. Sometimes this will cause you to feel any pieces left in place, or glue.
More often than not there will be some white glue (or clear glue) that remains around the inside of the temporary or around the tooth itself.
Gently rinsing with room temperature water can help clear this away. Tip: cold water can be sensitive so don’t risk it.
If the temporary looks like a complete shell, you are in luck and might be able to reseat it until you see your dentist. If it is completely broken then it is not worth the bother.
Step 2: Clean any debris from the temporary
Rinse the temporary with water from the tap. They are slippery so it is usually best to place it into a cup of water and swirl the water with the other end of a toothbrush.
There will be food fragments and temporary crown cement (glue) most of the time.
If the temporary is absolutely destroyed, place it into a plastic bag and make sure you have called your dentist. Below are some tips on how to look after the prepared tooth in the meantime.
If the temporary looks intact, lets try it in the mouth.
Step 3: Check the tooth in the mouth
Most of the time a crown preparation in the mouth will be relatively smooth to the tongue. They don;t typically rub or cause sensitivity to the tongue or cheek.
If the tooth is very sharp it could either be broken, or a quirky preparation. In these cases you *really* need to see your dentist before you do any damage to the tooth or your mouth.
Is the tooth very sharp? You can buy braces wax (aka orthodontic wax) at most pharmacies. Until you get into your dentist – place this dental wax over the sharp spot (and leave the temporary out of the mouth) if this is the case for you.
Step 4: If the temporary fits
If the temporary fits, you could actually place it over the tooth. Sometimes saliva or a liquid-like vaseline can actually keep the temporary in place.
Woohoo! At home dentistry! That said this solution is not suitable for overnight as it is not glued in well. So take the temporary back out if you are sleeping.
It is not worth accidentally swallowing or breathing the temp.
Step 5: Look after the delicate temporary
A temporary crown that you have replaced yourself is super delicate. Brush gently around it 2-3 times per day until you see your dentist.
Avoid sticky or crunchy foods.
Rinse with salt water or a mild mouthrinse to keep the gums healthy.
Can I use dental cement or denture adhesive from the pharmacy?
Pharmacies actually sell “dental cement” and adhesives that are similar to the materials we dentists use.
Personally, I don’t often recommend using these products as they tend to be messy and not actually that helpful. In my practice, we take phone calls and get the patient in as quickly as we can.
If the tooth is shaped well we often get results that are just as good with vaseline or toothpaste.
But if you are in a pickle and need something to try and keep that pesky temporary in place till you get into our chair – just be sure to follow the instructions. In particular focus on moisture control. These temporary cement tend to work MUCH better when the tooth and temporary are very dry.
How to protect the tooth after losing a temporary crown
When you lose a temporary crown, follow these basic steps until you see your dentist again.
- Avoid the extremes of temperature – the tooth can be sensitive to cold and even hot. Not worth the discomfort.
- Avoid chewing heavily on that tooth – you can break the prepared tooth or just cause pain
- Even if the temporary crown is back in place – brush gently and rinse with room temperature salt water to keep the gums healthy
- Don’t drink soda or juice. The acids can cause sensitivity or effect the inside parts of the tooth that are exposed for a crown prep.
How to care for a temporary crown
You can limit the risk of losing a temporary crown by doing the following:
- Brush very gently with your toothbrush. Consider using a manual toothbrush instead of an electric. And I love my electric toothbrush – and prefer my patient use them.
- Floss only if your dentist okayed it. Most temporary crowns can be flossed – but some cannot. If you floss with enthusiasm, you will dislodge the temporary crown.
- Floss through but then pull one end of the floss. AKA Floss down, then pull the floss out one side. Don’t floss back up.
- Mouth rinse can be a great help but some will actually stain the temporary crown. Oh dear! Saltwater is always the safest.
Foods to avoid when you have a temporary crown
If you are paranoid about losing or dislodging your temporary crown – avoid the following foods.
Crunchy foods are out, and chewy (sticky) foods are the main culprits.
Crunchy foods like ice, raw carrots, apples, corn on the cob, and nuts can cause disaster for a temporary crown.
Sticky foods like chewing gum, steak, caramels, sandwiches and bread are best avoided.
Is losing a temporary crown a dental emergency?
Typically losing a temporary crown is not a dental emergency. It is important to make an appointment but rarely is there pain or urgency.
They can be a little sensitive to temperature, or with chewing. They can also have sharp corners that are annoying.
Act promptly but no need to panic.
Does my temporary crown need to be replaced?
It’s not uncommon for a temporary crown to come off. It is far more common than patients may think. Seeing a dentist ASAP (within one or two days ideally) is critical.
Even if you can re-cement the crown, a dentist must replace it or reglue it. A temporary crown missing can see the neighbor teeth move. A temporary crown glued in the wrong position can make the final crown not fit – not ideal!
Sometimes the temporary crown will be lost just a day or two before the next appointment and your dentist will advise just waiting it out (if there are no symptoms).
If you do need to see your dentist – we almost always have a mold made up ready to go to make a new crown. I typically have a custom temp crown mold ready for every crown patient. Losing a temp is relatively infrequent – but as Scar the Lion says – it is better to be prepared!