Cracked, broken, and fractured teeth are common dental problems. As people retain their natural teeth longer (due to advances in modern dental care), the likelihood of cracked teeth increases. There are many reasons why teeth may crack. For example, biting on hard objects, trauma, and clenching and grinding of teeth. All of these behaviors place the teeth under extra strain and render them more susceptible to cracking.
When tooth enamel is cracked, pain can become debilitating. In the absence of pressure on the crack, there may be no pain or discomfort. However, during chewing, the fracture line propagates and the crack widens. The nerve space becomes stimulated or exposed, and painful irritation and inflammation occurs. As pressure is released again, the two parts of the crack fuse back together, and pain subsides. If left untreated, the pulp becomes irreversibly damaged and constantly painful. The death of the pulp tissue and resulting pulp infection can affect the bone and soft tissue surrounding the tooth.
Symptoms of a cracked tooth may include:
- pain when chewing
- Sensitivity to hot and cold foods and drinks
- Pain that occurs with no obvious cause
- Difficulty pinpointing the exact location of the pain
What kind of cracks can affect the teeth?
There are many ways in which a tooth can be cracked, in terms of location and depth. The specific type of crack will determine what type of treatment is viable. In cases where the crack is not too deep, a crown may be sufficient treatment, or a root canal therapy can be performed, and the natural tooth can remain in the mouth. In other situations, if the tooth is too badly damaged, it may require more a extensive procedure such as crown lengthening, or it may not be saveable and will need to be extracted.
How are cracks in the teeth treated?
There are many different types of cracked teeth. Some can only be identified using X-rays, while others are clearly visible to the naked eye. In cases where the tooth root is affected, root canal therapy is the most viable treatment option. The pulp, including the nerve and vessels of the tooth, will be removed, and the resulting space will be filled with gutta-percha, the standard root canal filling material. A core build-up and crown will then be done to stabilize the tooth, and it will continue to function as normal.
When the crack is too severe for the tooth to be saved, the dentist will need to perform an extraction. There are a number of restorative options in this case, such as dental implants, bridges, and partial dentures. All of these tooth replacement options can restore biting, chewing, and speaking functions.