Have you ever had a sudden, sharp pain in your mouth? It may be from a cracked tooth. When you bite down, you’re putting pressure on the teeth, causing the crack to open. When you stop biting, the pressure is released and you feel a sharp pain as the crack closes again. That opening-and-closing motion can irritate the pulp and the nerve inside the tooth. The tooth may become sensitive to hot, cold, or sweet drinks and food. If the crack is not repaired, the pulp may become damaged or infected and you may need root canal treatment.
It can be tough to tell if you have a cracked tooth. You may not be able to see it with the naked eye and it may not show up on x-rays. It’s important to see a dentist as soon as you have a toothache so the dentist can probe the tooth and gums to diagnose the problem.
Causes of Cracked Teeth
A tooth may crack for a number of reasons. Teeth grinding, clenching your teeth, or even biting down on something hard such as nuts or ice can cause a tooth to fracture. Mouth injuries caused by a fight or an accident, such as a baby’s head hitting the parent’s lower jaw, can also cause a tooth to crack. Or the tooth may be weak because of decay or an old amalgam filling.
Small chips on the edges or cusps of the teeth often cause no symptoms and can be treated by cosmetic bonding or other methods. Fractured teeth, on the other hand, may require different treatment. Here’s a look at the types of fractures teeth can develop and the symptoms they may produce.
Minor Cracks (craze lines)
These tiny fissures in the other enamel of the tooth often cause few or no problems. In many cases, they don’t even require treatment. If you’re having tooth pain, however, these cracks will need to be evaluated and possibly treated. Your dentist will carefully examine the area to see whether the cracks go only into the enamel or if they penetrate into the dentin (inner body) of the tooth. While the tiniest craze lines don’t show up on x-rays, the dentist can usually feel them when using a small instrument called an explorer, or by using special dye stains or high-magnification instruments.
This type of crack often starts at the chewing surface and extends toward the roots – but it may also begin at the root and continue toward the crown. This type of crack may cause sensitivity to temperature changes and produce a sharp pain when you chew. If the crack continues to progress, the tooth may need to be extracted.
Deep Fractures or Split Teeth
When serious fractures occur, you’ll know it. The tooth will be split and the tooth’s pulp is usually inflamed and painful. This type of crack requires immediate treatment, and it’s rarely possible to save the tooth.
Treatment for Cracked Teeth
If a small crack is detected early enough, it’s often possible to seal the fissure with restorative materials. If it’s a larger crack that reaches the pulp of the tooth, then root canal therapy is usually needed to save the tooth, and a crown applied to protect it. In the case of a severe fracture, the tooth will need to be extracted.
The best way to prevent a cracked tooth is to take precautions! Wear a custom-made mouthguard while playing sports and avoid bad habits that can wreck your teeth, such as chewing on a pencil or using your teeth to crack a nut. Plus, it’s important to visit the dentist for regular check-ups so your teeth can be carefully examined for early signs of a problem. The sooner it’s treated, the better the chance that the tooth can be saved.
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