Cracked tooth syndrome is different from teeth with obvious fractures. It involves minute fractures that are hard to detect and are present above or extend below the gumline. It is possible to save cracked teeth through timely diagnosis and endodontic treatments. However, if the crack develops below the gumline, the tooth will require extraction.
A cracked tooth, if left untreated, will progressively worsen and result in tooth loss. Timely diagnosis and treatment are crucial in saving cracked teeth.
Why do teeth develop cracks?
The different factors that lead to cracked teeth are as follows:
- Clenching and grinding put extreme pressure on teeth and cause them to crack.
- Malocclusion affects the way a person's teeth come together. A bad bite exerts excess pressure on the teeth, causing cracks and fractures.
- Dental trauma due to injury is one of the most common reasons that lead to cracked teeth.
- Teeth restored with large fillings or root canal treatments are weak, and more susceptible to cracks.
- Chewing and biting on hard surfaces like ice, nuts or candies also cause the teeth to crack.
- Abrupt alterations in temperatures in the mouth create cracks in the teeth. E.g. when you drink something extremely hot and then try to cool your mouth by chewing ice.
- Age is also one of the factors that cause the teeth to crack. People over the age of 50 are more susceptible to cracked teeth syndrome.
What are the symptoms of cracked tooth syndrome?
Not every cracked tooth produces symptoms, but you can suspect a cracked tooth if you witness any of the following:
- Erratic pain while chewing and biting.
- Extreme sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages.
- Difficulty in identifying the exact location of pain.
- Pain that comes and goes and is not continuous.
- Swelling of the gum tissues around the damaged tooth.
What are the different types of cracked teeth?
Craze lines are small vertical cracks or scratches that damage only the outer enamel and pose minimal threat to the overall tooth structure. They are shallow and don't cause any kind of pain. Craze lines don't require any treatment but can be corrected for cosmetic enhancements.
You will witness a fractured cusp when a small chunk of the tooth's surface breaks off. It generally happens around a dental filling. A fractured cusp doesn't reach the pulp chamber and causes zero pain. A filling material or a dental crown is used to restore the damage.
A cracked tooth, over time, progresses into a split tooth. The crack travels from the tooth’s surface to below the gumline and separates the tooth into two distinct segments. It is impossible to save a split tooth intact. However, your dentist will try to save a portion of it.
Vertical root fractures begin below the gumline and travel upwards to the chewing surface. They are hard to identify and show no symptoms and are detected when the surrounding gums and teeth become infected. Your dentist can perform an endodontic treatment to save the tooth, but in most cases, teeth with vertical root fractures require extraction.
How is a cracked tooth diagnosed?
Cracked teeth do not produce many symptoms and X-rays are not efficient enough in detecting them. To diagnose a cracked tooth, your dentist may do the following:
- Look into your dental history to find symptoms of grinding and clenching.
- Use a magnifying glass to visualize the tiny cracks that are invisible to the naked eyes
- Run a dental explorer over the tooth's surface to feel for the cracks. If cracks are present, the device will catch on an edge.
- Use a special dental dye to make the crack stand out.
- Examine your gums for infections and inflammation. Cracks irritate the gums and inflame them, especially vertical cracks.
- May ask you to bite on something. Cracked teeth are characterized by pain while biting and chewing.
- Have you bite down on something. If you have a cracked tooth, you may feel pain when you release your bite.
How is a cracked tooth treated?
Treatment depends on the size and extent of the crack, its location, and whether the crack stretches below the gumline. Your dentist will perform any one of the following procedures to restore the cracked tooth.
Dental bonding can fix minor cracks that limit themselves to the enamel. Composite resin is bonded to the tooth's surface with a dental adhesive to fill the crack and restore the tooth.
If the crack affects more than one cusp, dental crowns are used to restore the damaged teeth. Crowns are porcelain caps that encase damaged teeth and provide them strength. The tooth enamel is filed to create room for the crown, and an adhesive is used to cement the crown in place.
When the crack has extended into the pulp chamber, it affects the nerves and tissues present in it. Teeth with such cracks are restored with a root canal treatment. Root canal treatments involve removal of the diseased pulp.
In extreme cases, like vertical tooth fractures, it becomes impossible to restore the tooth. The only resort is to extract the damaged tooth to prevent further complications like gum diseases and infections.
We, at Bliss Dentistry of Campbell, California, cater to all your needs pertaining to dental services and routine exams. Our Campbell dentists with their entire team persevere to provide you with exceptional treatment that enhances and maintains the beauty of your smile. If you have any further question, queries or dental emergencies and are looking for an experienced dentist in the South Bay Area, feel free to contact us at (408) 963-6678 to schedule an appointment.