Cracked teeth demonstrate many types of symptoms, including pain when chewing, temperature sensitivities, or even the release of biting pressure. It is also common for pain to come and go, making it difficult to diagnose the cause of discomfort.
Chewing can cause movement of the cracked pieces of your tooth, and the pulp within the tooth becomes irritated. At the same time, when biting pressure is released, the crack can close quickly, resulting in sharp pain. Eventually, the pulp will become damaged and the tooth will consistently hurt, even when you are not chewing. It is possible that cracks can lead to infection of the pulp tissue, which can spread to the bone and gum surrounding the problematic tooth.
Types of Cracks
These are tiny cracks that only affect the outer enamel of the tooth. These cracks are more common in adults. These types of cracks are superficial and are usually of no concern.
The cusp in the pointed part of the chewing surface of your tooth becomes cracked. When a cusp becomes weakened, a fracture may result. The cusp may break off or be removed by a dentist. A fractured cusp rarely damages the pulp, so root canal is not necessary. Your dentist will usually restore the tooth with a full crown.
This type of crack extends from the chewing surface of the tooth and vertically migrates towards the root. In some cases, the crack may extend below the gum line. It is possible for the crack to extend further into the root. Damage to the pulp is commonplace. In this case, root canal treatment is usually necessary and you should see an endodontist. A cracked tooth that is not treated will worsen, resulting in the loss of the tooth. Therefore, early detection is essential.
Why should I see an endodontist?
Endodontists are dental specialists who diagnose and treat oral and facial pain. They specialize in root canal (endodontic) treatment, including any treatment for the inner soft tissues of the tooth. During dental school, all dentists receive some training in root canal treatment. In addition to dental school, endodontists receive two or more years of advanced education in this kind of treatment. They study root canal techniques and procedures in greater depth, including the treatment of cracked teeth. For this reason, many dentists choose to refer their patients with cracked teeth to endodontists.
After treatment, will my tooth completely heal?Unlike a broken bone, the fracture in a cracked tooth will never completely heal. In fact, even after treatment, it is possible that a crack may continue to worsen and separate, resulting in the loss of the tooth. Despite the possibility for the tooth to worsen, the treatment you receive is important. It will relieve your pain and reduce the chances that the crack will worsen. Most cracked teeth continue to function for years after treatment. Your dentist or endodontist will be able to tell you more about your particular diagnosis and treatment recommendations.
A split tooth is usually the result of an untreated cracked tooth. It can be identified by a crack with distinct segments. This type of tooth can never be saved intact. With endodontic treatment, however, a portion of the tooth can sometimes be saved. See an endodontist.
Vertical Root Fracture
A vertical root fracture begins at the root and extends towards the chewing surface of the tooth. Unfortunately, they show minimal symptoms and may go unnoticed. Treatment involves endodontic surgery if a portion of the tooth can be saved by removal of the fractured root. See an endodontist. Otherwise the tooth will have to be extracted.