Cracked teeth cause pain and the potential to ruin your smile. Understanding what causes teeth to crack will help you to avoid some of the most common reasons behind this problem. However, you must also know what to do when you have a cracked tooth. We at Southern Endodontic Specialists treat cracked teeth and educate our patients on preventing future damage.
What Causes Teeth to Crack?
Your adult teeth should last you for the rest of your life. But as durable as your teeth are, they can still sustain damage that causes cracks. Fractured teeth, however, don’t repair themselves like bones do. Therefore, for any cause of cracks, you will need supplemental care from a dentist or endodontist to close the gap and prevent the fracture from growing and bacteria infecting your tooth.
Extension of an Old Crack or Untreated Fracture
Once cracked, a tooth becomes more delicate. The fracture can grow without treatment. With treatment, the chances for the crack to extend lessen as long as you avoid other causes of tooth cracking, including temperature extremes, injuries, biting hard, and teeth grinding.
Exposure to very cold and very hot temperatures within a short time is a powerful combination. In nature, this temperature swing can cause rocks to crack. The same can happen inside your teeth. Drinking hot coffee then eating ice cream or sipping on an icy cold drink and eating soup can cause cracks to form in your teeth.
Wearing a mouthguard can prevent damage to the teeth while playing football, soccer, or doing other high-impact sports. Without one of these guards over your teeth, you increase the risk of having a tooth cracked or knocked out of your mouth. Knocked-out teeth require emergency dental care to save the tooth. While not emergencies that need treatment within an hour, cracked teeth from injuries do need prompt care to prevent the crack from growing or infection from spreading to other parts of the mouth.
Biting Hard on Objects or Food
Occasionally, cracks can happen when biting down on hard objects or food. For instance, if you chew on pens or use your teeth to open packages, you risk fracturing them. Even foods such as nuts, bones, and hard candies can result in cracks in the teeth. If you experience pain after biting down on something, contact your dentist or endodontist for an evaluation to see if you have a tooth fracture.
Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
Bruxism, also known as tooth grinding, most often happens at night when sleeping. Many people don’t know that they have this problem unless they have symptoms. Common signs of tooth grinding include headaches or jaw pain when waking or an alert from your dentist about wear on your teeth surfaces. Over time, the pressure of the teeth grinding against each other can cause fractures in one or more teeth.
Large fillings can weaken the structure of a tooth, which boosts the chances of a crack happening.
What Are Cracked Teeth?
Most patients see all cracked teeth as the same type of damage. Dental professionals, however, classify cracks into various categories, each of which has a specific treatment. Most tooth fractures will cause pain when chewing or pain from temperature changes. Due to the erratic nature of the pain, a dentist may need to take a CBCT(3D scan)to help diagnose a crack and to see how far the fracture goes.
Since the extent of the crack makes a difference in care options, all patients with cracked teeth should schedule a visit with an endodontist for an evaluation. The following are the most common types of teeth fractures and their treatment:
- Vertical cracks from the root: These fractures often require extraction or endodontic surgery to correct. They start at the tip of the tooth, under the gums, and move upward toward the biting surface.
- Cracked cusp: A fracture in the cusp of the tooth is a crack completely above the gum line that might create a chip in the tooth. However, this type of crack often only needs a filling because it does not go deeply enough to infect the tooth pulp.
- Treatable fractures: Cracks above the gumline are treatable with root canal therapy.
- Untreatable cracks: When the crack goes below the gumline, most treatments require extraction. These cracks often cause irreparable damage to the tooth.
- Split teeth: A split is a crack that causes a tooth to separate into pieces. Sometimes, an endodontist can save part of the tooth with surgery.
- Craze lines: These look like cracks but are only cosmetic and don’t need treatment. Always talk to your dentist or endodontist to be sure that you have craze lines and not another type of fracture.
Importance of Good Care for a Tooth Fracture
Quality treatment of a fractured tooth can make the difference in whether you need an extraction or not. The longer you wait, the greater the chance that the crack will grow and become untreatable. Therefore, you should reach out to an endodontist at once for care.
Bacteria don’t know the difference between a hole from decay and a crack when it comes to getting inside a tooth. Therefore, teeth fractures need the same type of treatment that decay would. For instance, if the crack only impacts the cusp, you might just need a filling and crown from your dentist. However, for deeper cracks that impact the pulp, you may need root canal therapy from an endodontist.
During this treatment, the endodontist removes the bacteria-infected pulp from inside the tooth. They then fill and seal the tooth. You might need a crown, especially if you had a molar treated. The crown provides extra strength and protection for the tooth when biting down on it.
Sometimes, you might need endodontic surgery to save all or a portion of a cracked tooth. Without this care, you could lose the entire tooth and need a partial or a dental implant to fill in the gap.
Get Help for Cracked Teeth from Southern Endodontic Specialists
Don’t let a cracked tooth reach an untreatable stage. Get treatment as soon as you notice the crack. Contact us at Southern Endodontic Specialists for an appointment or more information about getting a referral from your dentist. We have locations in Houma and Thibodaux for your convenience. Our endodontists use the latest in endodontic technology and treatment methods to help patients with cracked teeth. Let us work to save your fractured tooth with our exceptional endodontic care.