As strong as your teeth may be, it’s relatively easy to sustain a crack/fracture. Sometimes, all it takes is one big bite into that rock-hard toffee apple. Or an unfortunate trip-on-your- shoelace kind of fall, in which you just happen to injure your mouth. Often, cracks cannot be seen, and the tell-tale sign may be the resultant pain. Or not- depending on the severity of the crack and on which part of the tooth it occurs.
What causes a cracked tooth?
- Chewing on hard objects or foods, such as ice or hard candy
- Excessive tooth grinding or jaw clenching
- Exposure of tooth enamel to extreme temperatures- which happens when you eat hot food followed by a drink of ice water
- An accident or injury that results in trauma to the mouth
- Large amalgam fillings that do not reinforce the tooth and tend to weaken the tooth over time
Symptoms of a cracked tooth
- Pain when biting or chewing on something
- Pain when releasing the bite
- Transient pain that isn’t continuous
- Inflammation of the gum surrounding the affected tooth
- Sensitivity to extreme temperatures (hot and cold)
How is a cracked tooth diagnosed?
Your dentist will examine your mouth and will try to make a diagnosis by:
- Asking if you recently chewed on hard foods or have the habit of grinding your teeth;
- Using a magnifying glass to help spot any tiny cracks;
- Using a dental dye which works to make the crack stand out;
- Using a dental explorer (a sharp-ended dental tool) to feel for any changes to the structure of the tooth;
- Looking for any inflammation often inherent in vertical cracks;
- Performing a dental x-ray which may not reveal the crack, but will indicate if the pulp inside the tooth is affected- which is a sign of a cracked tooth;
- Asking you to bite down onto something to determine whether any pain is felt upon releasing the bite;
Treatment of a cracked tooth
Treatment of a cracked tooth depends on the type of crack, its severity, and its position on the affected tooth. The different kinds of cracks and the necessary treatment include:
- Minor cracks/craze lines
These small cracks only affect the surface of the tooth called the enamel. These cracks don’t require treatment; however, your dentist may decide to polish the area to improve the appearance of the tooth.
- Fractured cusp
This occurs when a piece of tooth around a dental filling breaks off. Because the pulp of the tooth (which contains the tooth’s nerves) isn’t damaged, there isn’t much pain. Treatment involves the placement of a new filling or crown over the damaged tooth.
- Cracked tooth
A cracked tooth involves a crack that stretches from the chewing surface to the root. A root canal will be required if the crack extends right to the pulp. A crown will then be placed on the tooth to prevent the crack from spreading. However, a tooth will be extracted if the crack extends below the gum line. Diagnosing a crack early, before it has a chance to spread, is therefore imperative to have the tooth saved.
- Split tooth
An untreated cracked tooth will eventually result in a split tooth. That is a tooth that has split into distinct segments. The entire tooth cannot be saved, but a part of the tooth may be salvaged by means of a root canal.
- Vertical root fracture
Here, the cracks begin from the root of the tooth and extend upward toward the surface. Vertical root fractures may go unnoticed until they result in inflammation and infection of the surrounding bone and gum. A tooth with this kind of fracture will often be extracted unless the fractured portion can be removed and treated with endodontic surgery (root canal treatment).
- Breaks caused by decay
A tooth may break or crumble as a result of being weakened by a cavity. It may be possible to restore the tooth if the decay isn’t too severe. Extensive decay that reaches the bone will lead to a tooth extraction.
If you have a cracked tooth or can’t be sure if you cracked your tooth by accidentally biting onto, say, a popcorn kernel- please give us a call. Remember that early treatment increases the chances of saving that tooth! Here at Anthony Spink Dental Suite, we understand how important your teeth are to you. We will make sure that the treatment you receive is of the highest quality.