Cracked teeth demonstrate many types of symptoms, including pain when chewing, temperature sensitivities, or even the release of biting pressure. It is also common for pain to come and go, making it difficult to diagnose the cause of discomfort.
Chewing can cause movement of the cracked pieces of your tooth, and the pulp within the tooth becomes irritated. At the same time, when biting pressure is released, the crack can close quickly, resulting in sharp pain. Eventually, the pulp will become damaged and tooth will consistently hurt, even when you are not chewing. It is possible that cracks can lead to infection of the pulp tissue, which can spread to the bone and gum surrounding the problematic tooth.
Types of Cracks
These are tiny cracks that only affect the outer enamel of the tooth. These cracks are more common in adults. These types of cracks are superficial and are usually of no concern.
When a cusp becomes weakened, a fracture may result. The cusp may break off or be removed by a dentist. A fractured cusp rarely damages the pulp, so root canal is not necessary. Your dentist will usually restore the tooth with a full crown.
This type of crack extends from the chewing surface of the tooth and vertically migrates towards the root. In some cases, the crack may extend below the gum line. It is possible for the crack to extend further into the root. Damage to the pulp is commonplace. In this case, root canal treatment is usually necessary. A cracked tooth that is not treated will worsen, resulting in the loss of the tooth. Therefore, early detection is essential.
A split tooth is usually the result of an untreated cracked tooth. It can be identified by a crack with distinct segments. This type of tooth can never be saved intact. Yet, the position and extent of the problem will dictate whether any portion of the tooth can be saved. Sometimes, endodontic retreatment by the doctors and restoration by your dentist can be used to save a portion of the tooth.
Vertical Root Fracture
A vertical root fracture begins at the root and extends towards the chewing surface of the tooth. Unfortunately, they show minimal symptoms and may go unnoticed. Treatment involves endodontic surgery if a portion of the tooth can be saved by removal of the fractured root. Otherwise the tooth will have to be extracted.
Many things can cause teeth to crack; such as:
- Extreme tooth grinding, which can put the teeth under enormous pressure.
- Large fillings that weaken the tooth.
- Chewing or biting on something hard, for example, ice, boiled sweets, fruit stones or meat bones.
- A blow to the chin or lower jaw.
- Gum disease, where there has been bone loss that could make the teeth more likely to suffer from root fractures.
- Sudden changes in mouth temperature.
How are cracked teeth fixed?
The choice of treatment depends on the amount of damage to the tooth. You should ask your dentist what the best treatment for you is.
- Bonding – this is when a plastic resin is used to fill the crack and it can easily repair a small chip off the biting edge of the tooth. Bonding can restore the shape of the tooth.
- Cosmetic contouring – this is done when the chip is very small. The rough edges of the tooth are rounded and polished to blend away the crack.
- Veneers – these are ideal for a tooth that still has a fair amount of structure remaining, as they are long lasting and need the least amount of tooth removing first. A veneer is a thin layer of porcelain or plastic material made to fit over the front surface of the tooth.
- Crowns – these are used as a last resort for a tooth that is not suitable for a veneer. A crown fits right over what is left of the tooth, making it strong and giving it the appearance of a natural tooth. If the nerve has been damaged and becomes infected you may need to have root canal treatment first. This involves removing all infection from the root canal. The root is then cleaned and filled to prevent any further infections.