OUR TEETH ARE STRONG, but they are not invincible. Accidents do happen, and they can result in a cracked tooth. Cracks can also develop gradually. Whatever is causing them, we want to educate our patients on the different types of cracked teeth and the proper treatment for them.
Symptoms and Effects of a Cracked Tooth
A cracked tooth can come with a variety of symptoms, including pain while chewing and sensitivity to changes in temperature. Applying pressure to a cracked tooth (like when chewing) can shift the sides of the crack, irritating the pulp. As the pressure is released, the crack closes again, resulting in a sharp burst of pain. Without treatment, a crack can lead to damaged pulp and continuous tooth pain. It can also lead to infection, which can spread down the root to the jawbone and gum tissue. Tooth cracks come in different types, and the severity of the damage determines how (or if) we treat it.
Surface Level Cracks: Craze Lines
When cracks only affect the tooth enamel, we call them craze lines. They’re similar to the cracks that form in a piece of glazed pottery, and they rarely threaten the health of the tooth. What they can do is affect a tooth’s appearance. Cosmetic options like bleaching can make them less visible, but a better long-term solution is to discover the cause and eliminate it. Common causes are chronic teeth grinding or an ice chewing habit.
Weakened Point: Fractured Cusp
If the point or cusp of a tooth weakens, it can eventually fracture. It will either break off on its own or be removed by a dentist and restored with a crown. This type of crack rarely reaches the pulp, so endodontic treatment usually isn’t necessary.
A Treatable Cracked Tooth
Cracks in teeth sometimes extend from the chewing surface down towards the root, even below the gumline. A crack like this needs fast treatment before the pulp becomes damaged because, after that, the tooth can only be saved with root canal therapy.
A Split Tooth
When a crack goes untreated long enough, it cracks all the way through and splits the tooth into multiple distinct segments. Such a tooth cannot be saved intact even with root canal treatment, but depending on the position and extent of the damage, it may be possible to save a portion of the tooth through a combination of endodontic re-treatment and restoration.
Vertical Root Fracture
Sometimes, a fracture begins from the root of the tooth going up instead of from the crown going down. This type of crack rarely involves obvious symptoms, so it’s easy not to notice them, particularly without regular dental exams. Extraction is often necessary for this type of crack unless endodontic surgery can save a portion of the tooth.
Trust a Cracked Tooth to the Professionals
If you suspect or know you have a cracked tooth (even if it’s only craze lines), it’s a good idea to bring it to us to check out. If the crack is serious, we can determine the best way to treat it to save part or all of the tooth, and if it’s minor, we can recommend the next steps to take to keep it from getting worse.