Cracked teeth demonstrate many types of symptoms, including pain that occurs during chewing, changes in temperature, or even releasing your bite. It is also common for pain to come and go, making it difficult to diagnose the cause of discomfort.
Chewing causes movement in 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.
Cracks can also lead to infection of the pulp tissue, which can spread to the bone and surrounding gum tissue.
Types of Cracks
These are tiny cracks that only affect the outer enamel of the tooth. These cracks are more common in adults are usually of no concern.
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 down toward the root. In some cases, the crack may extend below the gum line. Damage to the pulp is commonplace and in this case, root canal treatment is usually necessary. A cracked tooth that is not treated will worsen, leading to the eventual loss of the tooth. Early detection is essential.
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. The position and extent of the problem will dictate whether any portion of the tooth can be saved. Sometimes, endodontic retreatment by the doctors and restoration by your dentist can be used to save a portion of the tooth.
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. Otherwise the tooth will have to be extracted.
Injuries to the mouth can cause teeth to be pushed back into their sockets. When this occurs, our endodontist or general dentist are usually able to reposition and heal the tooth. Following acute care, the dentist will usually start root canal treatment within a few weeks of the injury. During the root canal, a medication such as calcium hydroxide will be placed inside the tooth. Eventually, a permanent root canal filling will be implanted.
Sometimes a tooth may be pushed partially out of the socket. Again, your endodontist or general dentist may reposition and stabilize your tooth. If the pulp remains healthy, then no other treatment is necessary. Yet, if the pulp becomes damaged or infected, root canal treatment will be required.
If you tooth is knocked out of your mouth, seek help immediately! If possible, put the tooth back in the socket, or else put it in a glass of milk or slightly salted water and bring it with you to our office. The amount of time since the injury and the condition of the tooth will determine if the tooth can be saved using root canal treatment.
Injuries in Children
An injured immature tooth may need one of the following procedures to improve the chances of saving the tooth:
This procedure encourages the root to continue developing as the inside of the tooth (pulp) is healing. Soft tissue is covered with medication to encourage growth. The tip of the root (apex) will continue to close as the child gets older. In turn, the walls of the root canal will thicken. If the pulp heals, no additional treatment will be necessary. The more mature the root becomes, the better the chance to save the tooth.
In this case, the unhealthy pulp is removed. The dentist places medication into the root to help a hard tissue form near its tip. With the tip covered, the dentist will fill the tooth using root canal filling material. The tooth will be weaker than a normal tooth and may require special restorative care by your dentist.