Your mouth is full of teeth, and those teeth are full of cusps. The cusp is a small section of each tooth that protrudes upwards, allowing you to grasp and chew food. Your molars having the most number of cusps. However tiny these sections are, they can become damaged and break off. But are your teeth going to suffer because of a missing cusp? It's not generally a dental emergency, but a missing cusp still needs to be replaced.
A broken dental cusp can actually be reattached, although this rarely happens. It's not a particularly complicated procedure, but given the fact that the detached cusp is tiny, it's often lost before it can be retrieved and reattached. If the cusp broke off while you were eating, then it was likely to be swallowed and is definitely gone. But a lost cusp isn't a dealbreaker, and fabricating a replacement section is a routine aspect of restorative dentistry.
Not a Dental Emergency
The cusp is an integral part of a tooth, and without intervention, the broken section has the potential to continue to deteriorate, meaning a more drastic intervention will become necessary to save the tooth. A broken cusp isn't a dental emergency, but it shouldn't be ignored indefinitely.
Replacing the Cusp
In many instances, your dentist will simply create a synthetic replacement for the missing cusp. This will be made of composite resin, applied directly to the tooth. It's shaped and then heat-dried. It will offer the same level of functionality as the missing section it's replacing; however it might not last indefinitely. Given the amount of pressure a dental cusp experiences (primarily due to chewing your food), an artificial cusp can wear down to the point that replacement is necessary.
An artificial cusp made of composite resin is only possible when the damage is limited to the surface of the tooth. If a crack has appeared, then the overall structural strength of the tooth is in question. Composite resin might not be enough to repair this level of damage, and your dentist might suggest a dental crown (with the necessary number of cusps) to fully encase the damage when it's thought that further deterioration of the tooth is inevitable.
Although it's not serious in itself, a broken cusp can often lead to further (more serious) damage, so it needs to be assessed and repaired as soon as you can manage.
Contact a company like Pacific Ave Dental/Allan L. Hablutzel, DDS to learn more.