Our teeth go through a lot. From grinding and chewing to eating sticky or hard foods, it’s no surprise that every now and then our teeth will crack or break.
What Causes a Cracked Tooth?
A cracked tooth can happen for a variety of reasons. Teeth grinding can put pressure on teeth causing cracks to form over time. Large fillings can also weaken the integrity of the tooth and cause fractures.
More common causes of cracked teeth are biting hard foods such as toffee and other sticky hard sweets, ice, and nuts. Injuries also cause a large proportion of teeth cracks. Changes in temperature in the mouth can weaken teeth — eating extremely hot foods then cooling the mouth with ice can cause stress to teeth. Age is also a leading factor of tooth cracks. As a large percentage of our population reach old age, cracked teeth, will become more of a problem.
What Are The Symptoms of a Cracked Tooth?
Not every cracked tooth is painful, or even noticeable. Some cracks are harmless and don’t require treatment. There are many more extensive types of crack that require dental treatment. If you suffer from any of the following you could have a cracked tooth:
- Swollen gums particularly around the cracked tooth
- Pain when eating, especially when chewing
- Mouth or tooth pain that tends to come and go
- Teeth that have suddenly become sensitive to sweetness
- Discomfort around the teeth and gums that is hard to pinpoint
- Teeth that have suddenly become sensitive to hot or cold foods
Are There Different Types of Cracks?
Commonly, there are five different types of cracked teeth. Each one is slightly more serious than the last and require more attention.
Craze Lines: These are superficial cracks that don’t cause pain to the teeth. Craze lines appear as thin cracks in the enamel of the tooth. They are natural and don’t require treatment.
Fractured Cusp: This type of crack will usually occur around a dental filling. These fractures usually don’t occur in the middle of the tooth where the nerve centre is and don’t cause much pain. It’s still a good idea to get a fractured cusp check out by your dentist.
Cracks to the Gum Line: If your tooth has a crack in it that goes all the way down to the gum line, the crack could run beneath your gums. This tooth will probably need to be extracted as the fracture could run deep. The best chance you have of saving this tooth is to get it examined by a dentist as soon as possible.
Split tooth: This is a crack that runs from the surface of the tooth to below the gum line and splits the tooth into two parts. While your dentist might not be able to save the whole teeth, they may be able to save half of it. A split tooth needs dental attention immediately.
Vertical root fracture: A vertical fracture starts below the gum line and travels upwards. Unless the tooth is infected vertical root fractures don’t always cause pain. It’s likely that this tooth will need to be pulled out.
What to do if You Have a Cracked Tooth
If your tooth is broken or fractured, visit your dentist as soon as possible. Otherwise, your tooth could be damaged further or get infected. This can increase the chances of losing your tooth and lead to other health problems.
In the meantime, try the following self-care measures:
- If the tooth is painful, take an over-the-counter pain relief.
- Rinse your mouth with saltwater.
- Eat soft food to avoid biting down on the broken tooth.
- If the break has caused a sharp edge, cover it with a piece of wax paraffin or sugarless chewing gum to keep it from cutting your tongue.
Treatment for a broken tooth will depend on how critical it is damaged. If only a small piece is broken off, it’ll be repaired in one sitting. A badly damaged or broken tooth may require a more lengthy and costly procedure.
How a Broken Tooth is Diagnosed
Since not all broken teeth are painful, or even obvious, a good dentist will have to do a visual examination on your teeth. They may ask about your dental history, whether you chew on hard foods or grind your teeth to figure out the cause of the breakage.
During the examination your dentist might:
- Use a magnifying lens to do a visual examination to find the crack.
- Run a dental explorer over the tooth to see if it catches on any broken parts.
- use a dental dye to temporarily stain your teeth and make any cracks stand out.
- Probe your gums to look for inflammation, particularly to identify vertical cracks.
- Get you to bit down on something to identify where the pain is located.
Treatment for a Broken or Cracked Tooth
Depending on what type of crack your tooth has, your dentist will likely recommend one of the following treatments.
Bonding: This is a simple procedure, where plastic resin is used to fill in the crack in your tooth. This restores the look and functionality of the tooth.
Crown: A porcelain or ceramic crown is fitted over the top of your tooth to protect it. This process may take a couple of weeks as the dentist may have to make a mold of your tooth, and send it away to get the crown made.
Root Canal: If a crack extends into the tooth pulp (the softer centre of the tooth where the nerves live) a root canal can remove the damaged pulp and restore the tooth.
Extraction: If the structure of the tooth is too damaged, a dentist may opt to remove the tooth completely.
How to Prevent a Cracked Tooth
Good oral hygiene is important for the health of our teeth. Avoiding hard or sticky foods is recommended as well as wearing a mouthguard during sport.
If you are concerned about cracks in your teeth, book an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. At Gentle Dental, our expert team of dentists can gently examine your teeth and recommend a suitable treatment plan. Book an appointment today.