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Why is my tooth cracked and do I have to get it pulled out?

Cracked tooth syndrome is painful and unpredictable. Cracked tooth syndrome is a diagnosis your dentist may use to describe a tooth which has a specific set of signs and symptoms indicating it is cracked. The teeth most commonly affected are molars or premolars (the back teeth). However, it may affect any tooth.

What are the symptoms of a cracked tooth?

  • sharp pain upon chewing
  • pain when eating foods which contain grains
  • sensitivity to cold, hot or sweet foods and drinks
  • difficulty localising which tooth hurts

 

What causes a cracked tooth?

  • the tooth may have a large filling with the crack starting under a weakened cusp (the bumpy part of the tooth)
  • being put under some heavy biting forces, such as grinding, clenching or habits like nail biting and pen chewing
  • the tooth may have suffered trauma, such as accidentally biting down hard on a fruit pit

 

How to check for a cracked tooth

There are many tests your dentist may do when diagnosing a cracked tooth. Cracked teeth can be challenging to diagnose because the symptoms are not always consistent and they are often hard to see on x-rays or in the mouth. Some of the tests I do include:

  • a cold test to check the response of the nerve
  • staining the tooth or checking with a special light to illuminate the crack
  • a bite test to pinpoint the pain, as you release pressure from the site of a crack, you will likely feel pain
  • probe the gums around the tooth to check if the crack has extended beyond the gumline
  • an x-ray will show me if an abscess is forming or in the case of some cracks, they may be visible on x-rays
  • removing the existing filling will allow me to check the extent and direction of the crack

 

Treatment options for a cracked tooth

Early diagnosis and treatment can help you save a cracked tooth from being pulled out. Most cracked teeth can be saved if a crack is located and treated early. Cracks usually start at the top of the tooth and run downwards into the pulp of the tooth. The pulp contains nerves and blood vessels so if the crack enters this space, you will experience pain and sensitivity.
Although an unmanaged crack can progress rapidly through a tooth, the right treatment can stop this from happening. Treatment depends on where the crack is and how far it extends into the tooth.

Simple crack

Treatment involves removing the compromised part of the tooth and placing a filling or crown on the tooth. Before a crown is placed, it is good practice to glue a stainless steel band around the tooth temporarily. This is to see if the discomfort stops. If it does, a crown will then be placed. If the is ongoing, root canal treatment may be required. The reason why a crown protect the tooth is because it acts like a helmet. It protects and supports the tooth and can prevent the crack from progressing and potentially splitting the tooth.

Complex crack

Root canal treatment may be required when a crack involves the pulp of a tooth. This is usually done over two or three additional appointments. When the discomfort has settled down, then a crown can be placed over the tooth. More complex cracks may require investigation under a microscope with a specialist.
The longer you leave a cracked tooth untreated, the more likely it will transition from a simple crack to a complex crack. This is why you should see your dentist as soon as you experience any symptoms listed above. Do you need quality dental care in Northwest Sydney? Then give Riverstone Family Dental a call on 8678 3538.

Severe cracks

This is where the tooth may be split in half or the crack extends well beyond the gumline. Unfortunately, in this case the only option is extraction or having the tooth pulled out. If you are worried about having a missing tooth, then discuss bridges, dentures or dental implants with your dentist.

Tips on how to prevent a cracked tooth

• avoid clenching and grinding your teeth during the daytime
• if you grind your teeth at night, then ask your dentist for a night guard
• avoid chewing hard things like ice, candy, pens or bone
• wear a mouthguard if you play contact sports
• prevent cavities and the need for fillings – natural tooth enamel is the strongest material in the whole body

I hope you have found this blog helpful. I am enjoying sharing my knowledge with you. If there is a particular topic you would like me to talk about, please contact my clinic on 8678 3538.

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