A tooth can crack when you least expect it. Sometimes you know it happens because you can feel it or see it. Maybe you just bit down on something hard - like a popcorn kernel - and heard the crack. Maybe you can even look in the mirror and see the visible line. Other times, however, some cracks are too tiny to be seen by the naked eye so you may never even know they are there.
Though, no matter how common a cracked tooth is in dentistry, it is important to get them addressed as soon as possible.
Not All Cracked Teeth Are The Same
When a tooth cracks, a whole piece may be missing. This is often referred to as a broken tooth or a chipped tooth. You can see it and know that it is there. This is not always the case with a cracked tooth. It isn’t always visible and the injury isn’t always detected right away.
A chipped or broken tooth can occasionally result from trauma. But, most of the time, a broken or chipped tooth will result after the tooth has already been cracked. If the crack isn’t addressed, then, in time, the crack can break away from the rest of the tooth. Leaving you with a broken or chipped tooth.
Regular trips to the dentist mean that your dentist is more likely to be able to detect the crack and treat it so any breakage going forward is a non-issue.
Cracked Teeth Are Caused By…
Teeth don’t typically crack for no reason. There will always be an underlying reason, whether you know what it is or not. Below are the most common reasons most dentists see patients with tooth cracks.
Bruxism. Bruxism is the formal term for teeth grinding and clenching. The extra - and unnecessary - force from the clenching and grinding can cause the teeth to crack. When forcing your teeth together while eating, you have food as a buffer. For those diagnosed with bruxism, clenching teeth together all night long - without a buffer - can cause issues such as cracks.
Tooth Decay. Proper oral hygiene is necessary to keep the teeth void of decay. Without it, decay can wreak havoc on the teeth, causing tooth enamel to weaken and become susceptible to cracking.
Previous Dental Work. Those who have undergone past dental work such as root canals or large fillings will have teeth that are more fragile. Without a protective crown, the teeth are easily cracked and broken.
Trauma. As discussed, injury to the mouth can cause a tooth to crack. This is also possible when biting down on hard things, such as ice cubes, jaw breakers, or even chewing on the tip of your pen.
Treating Cracked Teeth
There are different approaches that your dentist may take to treat a cracked tooth and choosing the right one usually comes down to what type of crack you have.
Small cracks within the enamel (often referred to as craze lines) don’t usually require any treatment. Your dentist will monitor them regularly when you come in for your appointments. Should they change or seem to be cause for concern, your dentist can then offer the appropriate treatment before things get out of hand.
If the crack has made it through the enamel, then it will need attention to repair it. If left alone, it can become susceptible to tooth decay and may even begin to cause some serious pain. Most dentists will use a filling or a crown to repair the crack, depending on its size.
Vertical cracks are the most difficult, as they cause cracks that may extend all the way down toward the root. A crown won’t often do the trick. And if the crack does make it to the root, then a root canal may be needed. For those that crack through the root, saving the tooth at all is usually not an option.
Preventing a Cracked Tooth
While there are some instances that a cracked tooth may be unavoidable, such as a mishap on the baseball field between the ball and your mouth. But, tooth cracks can often be prevented by taking a few precautions. These include:
- Wearing a mouthguard while playing sports.
- Avoid eating hard foods, such as ice cubes, popcorn kernels, jawbreakers, etc.
- Never use your teeth to open things.
- If you have a history of bruxism, consider investing in a nightguard.
Of course, one of the best ways to stay on top of any cracks or chips is to practice good oral hygiene - and visit your dentist regularly.
Elite Endodontics of NH Can Fix Your Cracked Tooth
Whether your cracked tooth has been causing you pain or not, the team at Elite Endodontics of NH can offer you solutions for healing - using the most advanced technology and the latest treatments.