If you’ve ever suffered from a cracked tooth, you know how uneasy you feel. Your cracked tooth may cause erratic pain, especially when chewing, or then acute discomfort when it is exposed to temperature extremes. However, this pain comes and goes, and it may be difficult for your dentist to pinpoint exactly which tooth is cracked.
A cracked tooth hurts because beneath the white enamel and a hard layer called the dentin is the soft pulp of the tooth. When your tooth is cracked, chewing can cause movement of the pieces and may irritate the pulp. If this continues, the pulp may become so damaged that it will not be able to heal itself. If not treated on time, extensive cracks can lead to infection of the pulp, which can spread to the gum and the bone surrounding the cracked tooth.
When it comes to a cracked tooth, prevention is definitely better than cure. Here are some ways you can prevent yourself from getting a cracked tooth:
- Do not chew on hard objects, such as ice or a pen
- Do not clench or grind your teeth
- If you clench or grind your teeth during sleep, get a retainer or other mouthguard from your dentist to protect your teeth
- Wear a mouthguard or protective mask when playing contact sports
- Prevent yourself from falling, especially on your face
- Treat cavities that can weaken your teeth
However, even if you have taken all precautions, you may still suffer from a cracked tooth. In that case, what should your treatment be? There are several types of tooth fractures and breaks, each of which require different endodontic treatment. In this article, that’s exactly what we are going to discuss.
- Minor cracks: These affect only the enamel of your tooth. These may not require treatment, but your dentist may lightly polish the tooth to remove any rough spots.
- Cracked tooth: This fracture involves the entire tooth, all the way to the nerve. The crack gradually spreads and is painful, especially when chewing. Filling material can be used to repair cracks, but the tooth will often need a crown to prevent the crack from getting worse. If the pulp is damaged you may need a root canal.
- Chips: These do not always need treatment. Your dentist may repair the damage with filling material or then, if the chip is very small, may polish the affected area to smooth it out.
- Broken cusp: This affects the pointed chewing surfaces of the teeth, also called cusps. These usually do not affect the pulp and may not be very painful. Your dentist may restore the tooth’s shape, using an onlay or a crown.
- Split tooth: This means that the tooth is split vertically into two separate parts. For this type of cracked tooth you will probably need a root canal and dental crown. Your dentist will also remove any roots that cannot be kept. You will also need a crown to cover the root and replace the tooth. In some cases, if the tooth cannot be saved, it has to be removed.
- Vertical breaks or split root: These cracks begin in the root of the tooth and spread upwards towards the chewing surface. These breaks are often painful, with the area around the root being inflamed and infected. In most instances, the tooth will have to be removed.
- Decay-induced break: This is caused by cavities that weaken the tooth from the inside out. You should visit your dentist who will recommend the right treatment for your tooth. In the cases where the cavity cannot be treated, the tooth may have to be removed.
- Serious breaks: These breaks go deep enough to expose the nerve. The tooth is usually painful and sensitive and the broken part of the tooth may bleed. In this case, you will need root canal treatment to remove the exposed nerve, as well as a crown to cover the tooth, so that you can eat and chew properly.
These are just some of the ways that a cracked tooth can present itself. Each type of cracked tooth needs a different kind of treatment. However, in all instances you should visit your dentist for endodontic treatment for your cracked tooth.
At Seattle Endodontic Arts we specialize in the treatment of cracked teeth and will be happy to advise you regarding your treatment options. You can consider visiting us for a consultation for different treatment options and recommendations.