If you have a fractured or cracked tooth you are not alone – it’s a very common dental issue. As all our space age technology allows us to keep our teeth longer our likelihood of cracking one increases.
How do you strain a tooth enough to crack it?
• experience a trauma
• biting on hard objects
• clenching by day
• grinding by night
How can I tell I may have a cracked tooth?
• Oral pain without obvious cause
• If you have difficulty pinpointing the location of your pain
• If you feel oral sensitivity to warm and cold foods
• If you feel unexplained pain when you eat
When your tooth enamel cracks you may feel a debilitating pain for a moment. Sometimes if you’re not applying pressure on the crack you won’t feel pain. As the cracked tooth does its job the crack will widen, the pulp and inner material of the tooth gest exposed and the discomfort will begin. When you release the pressure again the two sides of the crack fuse together again, relieving the pain temporarily. But if you don’t treat the crack your pulp will suffer irreversible damage and your pain will escalate. Sooner or later you’ll end up with a pulp infection that can spread to the surrounding soft tissue and the bone!
Your treatment will be determined by the type of crack. If it’s relatively shallow you may just require a root canal and keep your original tooth. If your tooth is beyond repair it will need to be extracted.
What types of tooth cracks are there?
These vertical cracks are but tiny scratches on the surface, which most dentists consider a normal tooth anatomy phenomenon. They don’t require treatment for health purposes, but are often treated for aesthetic reasons
Oblique supragingival cracks:
These do not extend below the gum line, but only affect your tooths’ crown. This type of crack does not result in much pain, as the tooth pult where all the nerves and vessels are housed will not be affected. The part of the tooth that is affected will fall off.
Oblique subgingival cracks:
These cracks could extend beyond the jawbone and beyond the gum line.
They are very painful, and if a piece breaks off it will usally dangle in the mouth until a dentist removes it. An oblique subgingival crack requires periodontal surgery to expose the crown and endontic treatment to apply a restorative device like a crown.
Vertical furcation cracks:
When the roots of your tooth dissect a vertical furcation occurs, deeply damaging your nerve. As the tooth will usually not split completely, a crown or a root canal will usually do the trick
Oblique root cracks:
This crack does damage only below the gum line and below the jawbone –- the surface of the tooth is not affected. Oblique root cracks nearly always require extraction, unless the fracture is not at all close to the surface.
Vertical apical root cracks:
This crack breaks the apex or tip of the tooth root. Because it’s highly painful most patients request extraction sooner or later (sometimes trying a root canal first to alleviate pain temporarily.)
Are there other treatments for cracks?
There are many potential treatments to consider after your dentists identifies a crack through an exam or an X-ray.
If the root is damaged root canal therapy is usually recommended. Your dentist will scoop out the pulp, nerves and vessels then fill the open space with gutta-percha. Finally he or she will install a crown of filling to stabilize your tooth so it can function good as new!
If the crack is so severe that your dentist must extract your tooth other restorative methods will be considered: a bridges, dental implants or partial dentures. All of these options will get you biting, chewing and talking just as you did before the damage!
If you suspect or know that you’ve cracked a tooth, call our office immediately at 773-481-2200. You want to take care of the crack immediately so as to preserve your tooth and avoid extraction if possible.