Cracked Teeth

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Teeth are made of very durable materials.  The hard enamel on the outside of your tooth can withstand a lot of abuse throughout the years.  Nowadays, due to advances in dentistry and medicine, we are able to keep our teeth for longer, which means that the enamel is subject to increased wear and tear throughout the years.  Habits such as teeth grinding, clenching or chewing hard objects can mean that the teeth get weaker and can form cracks through repeated use.  Often a cracked tooth will be painful as you chew down, as the tooth opens and closes slightly due to the pressure it is placed under.  It is also likely that you will experience increased heat sensitivity within the tooth.  Extreme cracked teeth will be constantly painful. It is important that you get a cracked tooth treated.  The pulp of your tooth contains all of the nerves and blood vessels, and it is this that is at risk if a cracked tooth is left.  Neglecting to have it treated can mean the pulp is permanently damaged and possible infection.  Infections can quickly spread to bone or gum nearby and cause serious amounts of pain and complications. 

Causes of Cracked Teeth

  • Biting down on something hard
  • Bad grinding of the teeth
  • Large fillings putting pressure on the tooth
  • Gum disease
  • Trauma or impact to the chin
  • Extreme changes in the temperature of your mouth

Types of cracks in the teeth and treatments:

Craze lines – This is when there is a small crack in the enamel of your tooth.  They do not spread and do not cause any pain.  There is no treatment needed for craze lines, however they can be smoothened out by your dentist so that they aren’t visible. 

Fractured cusp – The surface of your tooth is known as the cusp, and this can be easily damaged through chewing or regular tooth grinding.  Sometimes the cusp completely breaks off on its own, and sometimes it will need to be removed by your dentist.  Once the affected area has been removed the pain generally ceases but it is likely that you will need a crown or a veneer fitted to ensure no further damage.  A fractured cusp tends to leave the pulp of your tooth unaffected as it isn’t very deep. 

Cracked tooth – When a crack in the tooth goes right into the root.  This will leave a lot of the tooth exposed, including the sensitive pulp and dentin (the substance surrounding the pulp).  This will need a root canal, a small operation whereby the nerve is removed from the tooth, and a crown fitted to protect the tooth.  Sometimes your gums might be affected by a cracked tooth, depending on infection and gum damage the tooth might need to be removed. 

Vertical root fracture – This crack originates in the root and then travels to the enamel.  Often you won’t notice anything until the final stages or until it begins to affect the nearby bone and gum.  Often these root fractures will require you to have your tooth removed, although sometimes your dentist will be able to repair it using a root canal, a filling and a crown.

Split tooth – Once your cracked tooth has become completely split there is little that your dentist can do to rescue it.  Your molars tend to have two roots, and as such it might be possible to save a part of the tooth.  If your dentist does manage to do this then you will have to have a crown and restoration procedures such as fillings.  Usually your dentist will have to remove the tooth once it has reached this stage.

Treatments for Cracked Teeth

Treatments will vary as the cracks themselves are very individual:

  • Bonding – resin is used to fill in the crack or repair small chips.  Using a plastic resin can also enable your dentist to restore the tooth’s natural shape.
  • Cosmetic contouring – when a very small chip has occurred a dentist can simply round off the area to ensure a smooth surface.
  • Dental Veneers – used when little damage has been sustained and most of the tooth is intact.  A veneer is a small layer placed at the front of the tooth generally made out of porcelain.
  • Crowns – used for heavy damage, they are fitted over the remaining tooth, allowing it to maintain strength and look like a natural tooth.  Sometimes you will need a root canal before a crown is fitted, this will need to take place if you have sustained nerve damage or infection. 

By leaving a cracked tooth unattended you greatly increase the risk that the tooth will need to be removed.  Cracks do not heal themselves and instead get increasingly worse and worse, affecting other areas surrounding them also.  Even after they have been treated the cracks don’t close, instead they are re-fused together using dental techniques.

Preventing Cracked Teeth

Unfortunately cracking teeth is very common and there is little that you can do to prevent them from happening.  Being careful with hard foods can help, and if you know that you grind your teeth wearing a mouth guard at night can help to prevent any damage.


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