Cracked teeth can be caused by teeth grinding, trauma to the mouth, biting ice or hard foods, or by excessive decay that weakens the tooth’s structure. A cracked tooth is not always noticeable the moment it happens, and the symptoms may not appear right away. But once the fracture happens, it can spread and cause damage, even if it continues to go unnoticed. An untreated cracked tooth can lead to tooth decay, infection, and even tooth loss. The sooner you can get your cracked tooth diagnosed and treated, the better.
How do I know if my tooth is cracked?
A cracked tooth is not always easy to identify. Of course, it’s obvious when the tooth is split in half or a piece has broken off, but not all cracks are easily visible. Sometimes even the dentist can’t see the fracture without using a surgical microscope or advanced imaging technology. There are, however, a few signs to look out for that may indicate you have a cracked tooth.
- When eating, cracked tooth pain is often erratic or inconsistent, hurting only while eating certain foods or when you bite at a certain angle.
- During times when you’re not eating, cracked tooth pain is typically intermittent, coming and going with no real regularity, setting it apart from other types of persistent or throbbing tooth pain that may come from infection or an abscessed tooth.
- Increased discomfort with hot or cold foods or liquids can also be a sign of a cracked tooth.
- Even if you experience no pain symptoms but see discoloration or a light brown line running vertically through your tooth, this may indicate a cracked tooth.
If you experience any of the above symptoms, it’s important to see a dentist right away. You may or may not have a cracked tooth, but either way, these signs indicate some kind of dental issue. Your dentist can help diagnose and treat the problem before it leads to further complications.
Can a cracked tooth heal itself?
- A cracked tooth will not heal on its own, and a cracked tooth left untreated increases the risk of tooth decay, infection, and tooth loss. It’s important to seek treatment right away if you think you may have a cracked tooth. For very minor cracks limited to the outer enamel, your dentist may want to put off treatment for a short time, as long as you’re not experiencing any pain symptoms. In some cases, the minerals in saliva and the fluoride in toothpaste can rebuild enamel to repair minor cracks over time. It’s not enough in every case, so your dentist will want to keep a close eye on the situation in case further intervention is needed.
How will my cracked tooth be treated?
Every situation is different. It’s impossible to say exactly how your cracked tooth will be treated before the dentist is able to take a look at the scope of the damage and the type of crack your tooth has sustained. In general, however, here are some common types of tooth cracks and the typical treatment approach for each.
- Craze Lines – These microfractures are contained within the enamel only. They appear as discolored vertical lines in teeth, but they’re not a sign of damage. Craze lines are mainly a cosmetic issue, so the treatment involves teeth whitening, dental veneers, or composite resin bonding.
- Fractured Cusp – The cusps are the pointy parts of your molar crown. When one breaks, it’s called a fractured cusp. The treatment depends on the severity of the fracture and the extent of the crack. A filling may be all that’s needed, but in some cases, a crown or even a root canal is required.
- Cracked Tooth – When the crack is centered in the tooth and extends from the chewing surface to the root, it is called a cracked tooth. If the two pieces have not separated, the tooth can often be saved, but any damage to the pulp requires a root canal. After the pulp is cleaned out, a crown is placed on top of the tooth to strengthen and protect it. If the crack extends below the gum line, the tooth must be extracted.
- Split Tooth – When a cracked tooth leads to two distinct halves that can be separated, it’s called a split tooth. In many cases, a split tooth is the result of a cracked tooth that has spread down below the gum line. Extraction is most often the best solution, but occasionally, the fracture spreads down through only one of the molar’s two roots, allowing the second to be saved. In this case, a root canal can be performed instead of extraction.
- Vertical Root Fracture – A vertical root fracture involves a crack that grows up from the root of the tooth toward the crown. In most cases, tooth extraction and implant tooth replacement is the best treatment.
What can I do to prevent my teeth from cracking?
The best ways to prevent cracks in your teeth are to:
- Practice relaxation techniques to let go of stress
- Avoid acidic or sugary beverages
- Avoid chewing on ice or popcorn kernels
- Avoid biting on pencils or pens
- Avoid opening packages with your teeth
- Use toothpaste with fluoride
- Avoid clenching or grinding your teeth
- Wear a mouthguard when playing contact sports
- Wear a mouthguard at night if you have bruxism
- Brush and floss consistently
- Visit your dentist regularly for checkups
Remember, no matter how relaxed you are or how consistently you brush and floss, accidents do happen. If you experience tooth trauma or if you feel any of the symptoms mentioned above, schedule an appointment with Dr. Salami right away. Whether you have a tooth fracture or any other dental issue, it’s always best to get it treated sooner rather than later.
If you’re looking for a skilled, compassionate, and highly experienced dentist in Rancho Bernardo, Dr. Pegah Salami is here for you. She offers a comprehensive range of general, restorative, and cosmetic dentistry services. Give us a call at (858) 673-1000 to schedule an appointment today.