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Cracked Tooth

Cracked and fractured teeth are common dental problems. As people retain their natural teeth longer (due to advances in dental technology), the likelihood of cracked teeth increases. There are many reasons why teeth may crack, for example, biting on hard objects, trauma, grinding and clenching of teeth. All of these behaviors place the teeth under extra strain and render them more susceptible to cracking.

When tooth enamel is cracked, pain can become momentarily debilitating. In the absence of pressure on the crack, there may be no discomfort.  However, as the cracked tooth performs a biting action, the crack widens. The pulp and inner workings of the tooth then become exposed, and painful irritation occurs. As pressure is released again, the two parts of the crack fuse back together, and pain subsides. If left untreated, the pulp becomes irreversibly damaged and constantly painful. The resulting pulp infection can affect the bone and soft tissue surrounding the tooth.

Symptoms of a cracked tooth may include:

  • Unexplained pain when eating.
  • Sensitivity to warm and cold foods.
  • Pain with no obvious cause.
  • Difficulty pinpointing the location of the pain.
What kind of cracks can affect the teeth?

There are many ways in which a tooth can be cracked. The specific type of crack will determine what type of treatment is viable. In cases where the crack is not too deep, root canal therapy can be performed, and the natural tooth can remain in the mouth.  In other situations, the tooth is too badly damaged and requires extraction.

Here is a brief overview of some of the most common types of cracks:

Crazes – These are generally tiny vertical cracks that do not place the teeth in danger. These scratches on the surface of the teeth are considered by most dentists to be a normal part of the tooth anatomy. A craze rarely requires treatment for health reasons, but a wide variety of cosmetic treatments can be performed to reduce the negative aesthetic impact.

Oblique supragingival cracks – These cracks only affect the crown of the tooth and do not extend below the gum line. Usually, the affected part of the tooth will eventually break off. Little pain will result, because the tooth pulp (that contains the nerves and vessels) will remain unaffected.

Oblique subgingival cracks – These cracks extend beyond the gum line and often beyond where the jawbone begins.  When a piece breaks off, it will usually remain attached until the dentist removes it. Oblique subgingival cracks are painful and may require a combination of periodontal surgery (to expose the crown) and endodontic treatment to place a crown or other restorative device.

Vertical furcation cracks – These cracks occur when the roots of the tooth separate. This type of crack almost always affects the nerve of the tooth. Because the tooth will not generally separate completely, root canal therapy and a crown can usually save the tooth.

Oblique root cracks – These cracks tend not to affect the surface of the tooth at all. In fact, the damage is only apparent below the gum line and usually below the jawbone. Root canal therapy may be possible, depending on how close the fracture is to the tooth surface.  However, extraction is almost always the only option after sustaining this classification of fracture.

Vertical apical root cracks – These cracks occur at the apex (tip of the root). Though the tooth does not require extraction from a dental perspective, many patients request an extraction because of the high degree of pain. Root canal therapy alleviates the discomfort for a while, but most often, teeth affected by such cracks are eventually extracted.

How are cracks in the teeth treated?

There are many different types of cracked teeth. Some can only be exposed using X-ray machines, while others are clearly visible to the naked eye. In cases where the tooth root is affected, root canal therapy is the most viable treatment option. The pulp, nerves, and vessels of the tooth will be removed, and the resulting space will be filled with gutta-percha.  A crown or filling will be added to stabilize the tooth, and it will continue to function as normal.

When the crack is too severe for the tooth to be saved, the dentist will perform an extraction. There are a number of restorative options in this case, such as bridges, dental implants and partial dentures. All of these structures can restore biting, chewing, and speaking functions.

If you have any questions or concerns about cracked teeth, please contact our office.

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Testimonials

Dr. Beaty is an awesome Dentist! She also has a terrific Team of assistants who go above and beyond to make all patients feel comfortable. I would probably be the youngest person in history to have dentures if it wasn’t for Dr. Beaty. My family and I have been going to Dr. Beaty for over 20 years. I was looking for a pediatric dentist and when I called the office to make an appointment for another dentist, I was informed that Dr. Beaty had taken over the practice. I was assured she was great with children and she definitely did not disappoint! Dr. Beaty and her staff are excellent with children. My son was 3 and my daughter was 8 when we became patients of Dr. Beaty’s and since that union, my children have always looked forward to going to the dentist. Dr. Beaty – as well as her entire staff – have awesome personalities, terrific bedside manner and just overall kindness and concern for their patients. I have never been to a more dedicated, compassionate dentist who deeply cares about preserving your teeth. Dr. Beaty has always explained all treatment options, procedures, and the costs involved for those procedures. DB Dentistry follows-up with their patients to make sure there are no complications from procedures and that the patient is doing well. Even when she referred my children to the Orthodontist for braces, she made sure to check on their progress and to make sure we (especially the children) were comfortable with her referral. Dr. Beaty made sure that the excellent care her office provided was also being provided by her referral. To add to the excellent patient care, the amenities offered are above and beyond – from the chair massage, to the paraffin hand wax, to the warm neck wrap, to the mellow music. Feels more like going to a spa instead of seeing the dentist. Over the years, I have referred many family members and co-workers to Dr. Beaty and they remain patients. While Dr. Beaty is not an in-network dentist through my insurance, it is WELL worth the few dollars more to have peace of mind, comfort, and awesome care. I often think, I called looking for a dentist and gained a well-trusted and most respected friend. My family loves Dr. Beaty and DB Dentistry. They are THE BEST!!

Sandra

Naturally I spent the weekend on FACEBOOK sharing your artistry! The results are still unbelievable! The transformation is literally life-changing and I can't begin to thank you and your team of professionals enough for making it happen.

Michael

Dear Dr. Beaty,

What I appreciate most about your dental practice is your focus on the future. Rather than scold a patient for poor past dental care, you work with the patient to build better habits going forward.

I also appreciate your efforts to relieve patients’ anxiety about visiting the dentist. Some days the hot neck wrap, paraffin hand dip, or just the pleasant view turn a stressful experience into a relaxing one.

Matthew

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