A cracked tooth presents itself with various types of symptoms, including pain when chewing, temperature sensitivities, or even discomfort upon the release of biting pressure. It’s also not unusual for the pain to go away, then come back, which makes it harder to diagnose why there is discomfort.
Chewing can cause the cracked pieces in your mouth to shift around, and the pulp within the tooth becomes irritated. At the same time, you might experience a piercing pain when the biting pressure is released, resulting in the crack to seal quickly. The pain will eventually become continuous, even when there is no chewing action, when the pulp becomes damaged further. At this point, the pulp may become infected, and it could lead to spreading to the gum and bone near that damaged tooth.
Types of Cracks
Tiny, barely noticeable cracks, which only disturb the outer enamel of a tooth, and mostly discovered in adult teeth. They typically don’t cause too much problem, because they are superficial.
A weakened cusp often leads to a fracture, which could be removed by your dentist, or it might break off on its own. A root canal might be in order, if the pulp ends up damaged, and quite possibly a full crown.
If there is a crack migrating to the root, extending from the chewing surface, it might cause the pulp to become damaged, leading to a possible root canal. If the cracked tooth is not treated, it could worsen, to the point of needing an extraction.
If a cracked tooth goes untreated, it will likely result in a split tooth. It is probable that you will lose the tooth, or at least part of it. To save it, it will require endodontic treatments for a restoration.
Vertical Root Fracture
When the root fracture starts in the root, then spreads to the chewing surface, it’s called a vertical root fracture. This type of fracture often goes unnoticed, until the damage needs a corrective procedure, or extraction.
Just as there are various types of cracked teeth, there are also various options for treatment.
Treatment Options for Cracked Teeth
The list below shows a variety of treatments for a cracked tooth, and listed in order of the degree of severity, starting with the least severe:
- Filing – Part of the tooth can be filed down, if the crack is minor. This will take the edge off and will likely be enough, unless it cracks further for some reason.
- Dental Bonding – The fractured portion of the tooth is bound together, or partial replacement, with a white filling material. This is often a great option for a tooth with a minor chip.
- Mouth Guard – With small fractures, wearing a mouth guard at night when you sleep could help diminish symptoms. At times, it’s also used to prevent cracks.
- Crown – If the tooth has a significant crack, the doctor might suggest a crown. This will cover the cracked tooth, protecting it from further cracking.
- Root Canal – If the crack has reached into the pulp, it could affect the nerve, creating intense pain. At this point, it will be recommended you have a root canal performed. The pulp is cleansed, and then filled. Afterward, a crown will be placed on the tooth.
- Extraction – If there is a vertical fracture, there isn’t much you can do to save the tooth. The doctor will recommend that the tooth be extracted. After the extraction, you could have an implant, bridge, or partial denture to replace the tooth.
A cracked tooth isn’t just about vanity. Repairing it, depending on the severity, can be critical for maintaining a healthy smile and mouth.