A cracked tooth refers to a broken or fractured tooth. Your tooth consists of a soft inner part known as the pulp, dentin, and white enamel layer. The pulp contains the blood vessels and nerves. A crack will result when enamel and dentin break. Any part of the tooth can crack.
The damage may be on the enamel only or travel through dentin into the pulp. In some cases, the crack is visible, and it may present as pain when chewing food or sensitivity to hot and cold food. It is often challenging for dentists to locate small cracks because the associated pain tends to come and go.
Causes of a Cracked Tooth
The condition may lead to loss of teeth. It can occur naturally as an individual grows old, or after chewing hard foods, and at night when grinding teeth. Other causes include:
- Sudden changes in the mouth temperature, especially after taking a hot substance and cooling the mouth immediately using ice water
- Trauma to the mouth such as in fistfight, sporting injuries, and in accidents
- Large fillings that compromise the integrity of the tooth
Symptoms of a Cracked Tooth
Studies have revealed that individuals with cracked teeth may not necessarily have symptoms. Some cracks are harmless and don’t require specialized treatment. However, the following symptoms may necessitate prompt dental treatment.
- A discomfort around your gums and teeth that is difficult to pinpoint
- Pain that comes and goes
- Oversensitivity to hot and cold foods
- When the teeth become too sensitive to sweetness
- Swollen gums surrounding the cracked tooth
- Pain when biting or chewing
Diagnosis of a Cracked Tooth
X-rays may not reveal cracked teeth. Further, not everyone presents with the typical symptoms. In diagnosing a cracked tooth, the dentist may consider the following:
- History taking by asking the patients if they frequently grind their teeth or chew hard foods
- Use of dental dyes that make the affected tooth distinct
- Visual examination through the use of a magnifying lens
- Probe the gums for any inflammation. The technique is vital in identifying vertical cracks that may irritate the gums.
Types of a Cracked Tooth
Tooth cracks are common. They are prevalent in women over 40 years than men. They often vary in depth, length, and site of location. The cracks may appear as:
They are the tiniest cracks known to develop within the enamel. Most people may not notice the craze lines. They do not require any specialized treatment unless there are symptoms. Besides, they are not associated with any pain.
The crack occurs around dental fillings. A broken cusp does not affect the pulp, which contains the nerves and blood vessels. Hence, it does not cause severe pain.
It is characterized by cracks that travel from the tooth surface to below the gum lines. The tooth may be divided into two portions. With such a crack, it may not be easy to save the tooth. However, your dentist may try to save a part of it.
A tooth having vertical cracks extending through it but has not reached the gum lines is savable. However, if they invade the gum lines, your dentist may have to extract the tooth. With prompt treatment, you will be able to save your tooth.
Vertical Root Fractures
In vertical fracture, the crack begins under the gum line and moves upwards. It is often not associated with several symptoms unless an infection may force the dentist to extract your teeth. Unlike bones, broken teeth do not heal by themselves.
Treatment will depend on the type of crack. Individuals with cracked teeth are advised to consider seeking prompt medical attention so that the dentists can help in saving the tooth. Failure to manage the damage may make it split or develop into an abscess which may spread into the bones or gums.
Treating A Cracked Tooth
The most suitable treatment for a cracked tooth will depend on the extent of damage and crack location. In case it is tiny and not associated with any discomfort, you may not require any treatment. Based on the symptoms, location, and crack size, your dentist may recommend the following types of treatment:
Dental crowns are prosthetic devices made of porcelain or ceramic. A crown caps the damaged tooth or fits over it. Before placing the crown, the dentist will shave off some enamel from the tooth to give room for the crown. After that, they will make an impression of your tooth, select a color that fits your tooth, and send it to the dental lab, where the specialists make the crown.
Note that the process may take several weeks. Upon return of the crown, the dentist will fit and cement it over the damaged tooth. With the improvement in technology, your dentist may decide to mill porcelain crowns in the office and complete the treatment on the same day. With adequate dental care, a crown may last longer.
It is often used in repairing a cracked tooth. It entails using dental composite resin material, which is applied directly to the teeth to correct minor or moderate cracks. With proper dental care, dental bonding may stay up to 10 years.
Root canals will be the most suitable when the cracks extend into the pulp. When the pulp is destroyed, there is a possibility that the tooth can be lost, and the root canal is the only option that can save it.
Patients who undergo root canal procedures will also require crowns after the procedure. It allows the tooth to regain its strength and protects the tooth from further weakening and infections.
Your dentist may recommend tooth extraction when the crack reaches the gum line. Although it is not ideal extracting the tooth, a patient with the damage getting below the gum lines may not have an option because the tooth is beyond repair.
The dentist may not recommend any treatment for the tiny hairline cracks on the tooth enamel because the cracks do not affect tooth appearance and are not associated with any pain.
The major complication of cracked teeth is an infection that may spread to the gums and bone. Symptoms will include bad breath, tender glands on the neck, sensitivity to cold and heat, swollen gums, fever, and pain when chewing. In managing the complication, the dentist will drain pus then prescribe antibiotics to kill the microbes.
Prevention and Self Care
Although you may not treat a cracked tooth at home, you can prevent one. Strong teeth are rarely prone to fractures, as long as you practice the best dental hygiene. It is advisable to brush at least twice a day, floss daily, and visit your dentist at intervals of six months.
It is also advisable to avoid chewing hard foods. Consider wearing mouth guards when playing contact sports and when sleeping if you often grind your teeth.
If you suspect that you have a cracked tooth, you should rinse your mouth using warm water before applying cold compression externally on the cheeks to reduce swelling while at home.
While at home, anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen are also effective in alleviating pain and swelling. Promptly reach out to your dentist if you notice symptoms associated with a cracked tooth because any delay puts your dental health at greater risk.
Practicing good dental hygiene, wearing mouth guards in contact sports, and avoiding hard foods will protect your smile. For any dental inquiries, contact our offices. Alternatively, you can visit our website to schedule for a dental check up. Our accredited dentists are ready to serve you.