The Signs Your Tooth May Be Cracked

Typically, when a tooth cracks, it won't feel broken even though biting on it will hurt. So, you suddenly feel a sharp ache in your mouth when you chomp on a popcorn kernel or some other type of hard food. This scene is played out many times every day and it causes countless people to make emergency appointments with their dentist. It should be noted here that it isn't always hard foods that cause a tooth to crack; sometimes soft foods can be the cause if you come across an unexpectedly hard item like popcorn kernel.

Diagnosing a Cracked Tooth

There are a couple of different ways to diagnose a cracked tooth:

  • It can be difficult to detect a cracked tooth on an x-ray because a radiograph cannot really portray a three dimensional object in two dimensional format. Where the tooth is not split into pieces or if the crack runs in the same plane as the x-ray, the crack will not be displayed on the resulting image. Very often, an x-ray shows a cracked tooth looking like a normal one.  
  • Sometimes, a cracked tooth can be identified by a bite test. This means the patient bites on a specially-designed stick or instrument using each tooth in turn until the painful one is found. This sensitivity on biting cannot always be replicated during these tests if the crack has not spread sufficiently.  

A crack in a tooth is not dissimilar to a crack in glass. First, a small craze line can develop in the tooth or along its root and will eventually form into a more obvious fissure as pressure is exerted on it. So, the first symptoms may be erratic and not so severe.  

The crack can spread with constant chewing, so the symptoms will become more regular and more distinct. Where a crack has sufficiently spread to destabilize the tooth, biting becomes more painful, so it becomes easier to detect the problem. When a crack makes its way to the pulp or nerve of the tooth, pain can become more pronounced, temperature sensitivity can set in, and the symptoms generally become more persistent.  

Treating a Cracked Tooth

Once a tooth has cracked it is usually necessary to have a restoration, such as an onlay or crown made. This will reinforce and support the compromised tooth. Root canal treatment may be necessary if the crack has compromised the pulp before a long-term restoration is placed. Very often, if the crack reaches the tooth's root, the only option may be to extract the tooth.

A crack can develop in any tooth, even those that have never had crowns or fillings. However, it is more common for teeth with large fillings to crack when unexpected and sudden force is placed on them.

A Final Word about Cracked Teeth

Teeth that have not been properly restored are more prone to fracturing. Indeed, the main reason why root canal-treated teeth need to be removed is that they weren't adequately restored with a crown or onlay.  Consult your dentist if you experience toothache when you bite, even if there is no visual evidence of a crack. That pain may be indicative of a more serious underlying problem. For other questions or help as you decide what you need, contact a company like Pinon Hills Dental.