As dental technology and techniques become ever more sophisticated, people tend to retain their teeth until much later in life. This is a double-edged sword however, and the longer life of teeth also means that they have more time to be exposed to bad habits like grinding or clenching your teeth and chewing on hard objects. If such behaviours are constantly repeated, then this can contribute to the formation of cracks in your teeth. No two cases of teeth cracking are the same, with patients reporting a variety of symptoms. Although symptoms can vary wildly, many patients report experiencing varying degrees of pain and sensitivity to hot and cold.
Your teeth are composed of a number of layers. The outermost layer is made up of the protective enamel and the innermost layer is made of a calcified body tissue called dentin. The dentin plays an important role of protecting the pulp, which houses nerves, blood vessels and cells. Cracks in your teeth can often become painful when you chew, as the movement tends to irritate the pulp. Similarly, when biting down on things, cracks may close quickly, eliciting a sharp pain. If the pulp irritation is left unchecked, it can often lead to non-repairable damage to the pulp. There are a number of issues that this can cause including constant pain in the affected teeth. In more severe cases, the cracks can allow the pulp to become infected which may even affect the gum tissue and nearby bone structures.
Treating Cracked Teeth
There are many different types of crack and the treatment mostly depends on what sort of crack it is, its location and its severity.
- Fractured Cusp - This type of crack occurs when the pointed section of your tooth's chewing surface weakens. This may lead to the cusp breaking off on its own or having to be removed by your dentist. Following extraction of the cusp, the pain tends to disappear. Fortunately, a fractured cusp tends not to cause any damage to the pulp although you may need to have a crown fixed to replace it.
- Cracked tooth - This is when a crack penetrates right into the root of the tooth. Because of its dangerous location, this sort of crack will often inflict damage on the pulp. A root canal treatment is often required in conjunction with a crown to restore and protect the tooth. In more severe cases, the crack may affect your gums, requiring the problem tooth to be extracted.
- Vertical root fracture - A crack which begins in the root and penetrates all the way to the outermost layer. This type of crack doesn't cause problem symptoms so it often isn't noticed until it causes problems in the nearby bone or tissues. Depending on how severe the crack was, extraction may be required.
- Split tooth - If a cracked tooth is left unchecked, a split may occur. Your dentist will be unable to save your tooth if it becomes split, and whether any part can be saved will largely depend on the severity of the crack. If it is possible to save any part of the tooth, then a crown or similar restoration will be required.