If a person experiences pain when chewing food, or if teeth suddenly become sensitive to hot and cold, one tooth may be a cracked.
Any pain associated with a cracked tooth tends to come and go. This can make it more challenging for a dentist to locate the crack, especially if it is very small.
Generally, teeth are quite durable, designed to hold up to daily crunching, biting, and chewing of all kinds of solid foods. Sometimes, however, a one-off incident like a fall or blow to the mouth – or a chronic condition like nighttime teeth grinding – can generate enough force that a tooth becomes cracked or fractured.
People with a history of tooth decay, large dental fillings, and root canal treatment may also be more susceptible to a fracture.
Some types of cracks are harmless and do not require treatment.
However, if a person notices the following symptoms, they may have a more extensive type of crack that requires dental treatment:
- teeth that have suddenly become sensitive to hot or cold foods
- pain that tends to come and go
- discomfort around the teeth and gums that is hard to pinpoint
- pain when eating, particularly when chewing or biting
- swollen gums around the cracked tooth
- teeth that have suddenly become sensitive to sweetness
Chipped or Cracked Teeth Causes
The possible causes of a chipped or cracked tooth include:
- Poor Hygiene: Poor oral care can make you vulnerable to a chipped or cracked tooth, especially if your tooth enamel is already damaged or thinning.
- Bruxism: Excessive teeth grinding, called bruxism, can cause a chipped or cracked teeth.
- Cavities: Cavities which can weaken the teeth and predispose you to a chipped tooth.
- Bad Bite: Biting down on something hard, such as an ice cube, a piece of hard candy, or a bone.
- Hard Hit: Trauma to the face or mouth, such as being hit in the face with a ball while playing sports.
- Simple Cracked Tooth: Simple cracks in the tooth enamel are also known as “craze lines.” This type of damaged tooth may not require treatment, but you should still see a dental professional for evaluation. Your dental professional can polish the cracked tooth to smooth rough spots and improve the tooth’s appearance.
- Split Root: A cracked tooth can also start in the tooth root. This type of cracked tooth is obvious and painful, and it can cause inflammation and infection at the tooth root that often leaves tooth extraction as the only treatment.
- Serious Cracked Tooth: If you have a serious cracked tooth, the fracture could extend from the chewing surface of the tooth down into the tooth root. If you have a serious cracked tooth that goes through the outer layers of tooth enamel and dentin to exposes the tooth pulp, the tooth can become loose and your gums may bleed.
The best treatment depends on the location of the crack and the extent of the damage. If a crack is tiny and causes no discomfort, no treatment may be necessary.
Treatments for cracked teeth include:
- gluing on the chipped or broken part of a tooth
- repairing the crack with plastic resin, in a process called bonding
- using a filling
- using a crown, which is a cap that entirely covers the tooth
Cracked teeth are not always preventable, but a few strategies can help. These include:
- avoiding foods that are hard to chew, such as ice and unpopped popcorn kernels
- putting an end to habits that may damage the teeth, such as grinding or biting on pens
- trying not to clench the teeth
- wearing a mouthguard to protect the teeth while playing sports
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