Simply put, a cracked tooth is a crack within a tooth, and it can vary between minor cracks which are harmless to major breaks in a tooth that are very problematic. The issue is most common among young children and older individuals; however, a cracked tooth can happen to anyone, and you should seek medical attention immediately if you suspect your tooth is cracked. Once your situation has been evaluated the dentist will categorise the issue in five key areas which are outlined below.
Vertical root tooth fracture: This is a crack in the tooth which begins under the gum line and moves towards the tooth’s biting surface. This type of crack usually necessitates having the tooth removed.
Cracked tooth: This is a vertical crack in the tooth which begins on the biting surfaces and works its way up to the gum line, and potentially extends into the gum line/root. Again, this usually necessitates removal of the root.
Split tooth: recognisable as a crack in the tooth which starts from the tooth surface to below the gum line and leaves the tooth split into two parts. Again, usually the tooth will need to be removed.
Fractured cusp: This is the most common type of noticeable crack. It usually forms in teeth that have been heavily filled. When you have decay, the dentist will usually treat the tooth by removing the decay and placing a filling. Sometimes, once decay has been removed, thin parts of healthy tooth structure are left on the outsides of a tooth. This portion of the tooth may be healthy (i.e. not decayed) but as they are thin, they may be weak. Overtime they may crack.
Hairline tooth crack: This is a minute crack in the enamel of the tooth and should not cause any pain. Sometimes they are visible but do not necessitate any additional treatment unless there are other factors involved.
Causes and symptoms of cracked teeth
The causes of cracked teeth can vary, however, some of the most common causes have been outlined below.
- Significant trauma to the jaw/mouth area, which can include physical violence, sports incidents or simply falling over
- Your age can also play a role, with many tooth cracks happening to those over the age of fifty
- Grinding on your teeth can potentially instigate cracks
- If you frequently consume hard foods, then you can be susceptible to tooth cracks
- If you have a large dental filling or a root canal, then the weakened tooth may crack
- Heavily filled teeth are more prone to cracks
- Some individuals possess a ‘hard bite’
While in some scenarios a cracked tooth is completely symptomless, there are some key symptoms you can look out for, which have been outlined below.
- Pain in the tooth when chewing/biting
- Inflammation near a tooth
- Increased sensitivity when consuming hot/cold foods or drinks
Treating a cracked tooth
The exact treatment required for a cracked tooth will depend on the damage that the tooth has been through. In some scenarios a dentist may not even recommend any treatment. This occurs if the cracked tooth is not affecting your appearance, not causing any significant discomfort or if there is very low chance it can progress. Some of the most common cracked tooth treatments have been outlined below.
Get a veneer: A veneer is a thin piece of porcelain/plastic which is placed over the front of a tooth and can cover a cracked tooth. It is most viable when you have a good amount of your natural tooth remaining
Bonding: This involves a tooth-coloured resin material which can help fill in a potential tooth crack
Root canal treatment: This treatment is used when the crack has extending into the tooth pulp, and it will remove any damaged pulp to ensure the tooth is not further weakened
Cosmetic contouring: This treatment involves any rough edges being smoothed out and can minimise the appearance of cracks
Have an extraction: If a tooth is severely cracked then this may be the only option, and it involves complete removal of the tooth and root itself
Get a crown: In the scenario that you do not have the necessary natural tooth for a veneer then a crown can be fitted over the tooth to cover up a cracked tooth
Preventing a cracked tooth
While you obviously can’t avoid any damage to your teeth ever occurring, especially if you take part in contact sports, it is possible to minimise your risks. Some good ways to prevent a cracked tooth have been detailed below
- Have regular dental visits to ensure even the most minor fractures are spotted early
- When possible, avoid hard/crunchy foods
- Use a gum shield when playing contact sports or if you have teeth grinding issues
- Always maintain good oral hygiene
If you are worried about a cracked tooth or you have any other dental issue that you would like to discuss with a professional, we are here to help. Book an appointment with us today.