According to The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some 90% of U.S. adults will get at least one cavity in their life. Many of these will require fillings to take up the space where the decay once resided. Similar to fillings, but with more surface area, are crowns which are used to cover the tops of damaged teeth. Depending on the age of the filling (or crown), the material it’s made from and extenuating circumstances like trauma to the mouth, these fillings or crowns can fall out. In other instances, these may come loose due to underlying tooth decay which can erode portions of the teeth that keep a filling or crown in place.
While generally not considered an emergency, a lost filling or crown can result in moderate to severe discomfort or pain caused by sensitivity to temperature, pressure or air. If possible, it’s always recommended that you keep loose crowns in a safe place, then schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.
Even if your pain level is manageable, it’s not a good idea to wait before making an appointment. The primary reason is that what’s left of your tooth isn’t going to be as strong or complete as the crown itself. Without the hard, protective material of your crown you risk further eroding your teeth or allowing the surrounding teeth to shift and fill the space so that your crown no longer fits.
So we’ve established that seeing your dentist ASAP is the correct course of action. However, there are a few things you can do at home in the interim:
Peruse the spice aisle at your nearest supermarket and invest in clove oil. (Your dentist may also have satchels of clove on hand.) Apply the oil or satchel to the affected area with something small and sterile such as a cotton swab. It will act as an anti-inflammatory and provide temporary pain relief.
To protect the open area from the pain of being overexposed, you may be able to temporarily slip the crown back over the tooth (assuming you were able to save it). Doing so can be a great help for keeping air or hot and cold sensations from causing further pain. However, before you make strides to fit the crown back on the tooth, be sure to thoroughly clean the inside. Then, collect a tooth "cement” from the dental section of your pharmacy and coat the inside of your crown, and apply very gentle pressure. You can also use a denture adhesive or petroleum jelly as a temporary solution-- just steer clear of actual glue which can be toxic and damaging.
If you’ve lost or swallowed the crown entirely, dental cement, adhesive or Vaseline can also be applied directly to the tooth’s surface and will help seal and protect from the elements until you are able to get in to see your dentist.