When it comes to your teeth, most people use the words “fracture” and “crack” interchangeably. Tooth cracks are a common occurrence in dentistry.
Any time you break off a part of a tooth, it’s technically a fracture. Even a tiny chip sustained can be considered a fracture, though; this isn’t a very serious injury.
But some fractures can be quite serious, leaving the remaining part of the tooth jagged and very sensitive or painful as some fractures leave the interior parts of the teeth (nerve) exposed, which should be fixed as soon as possible.
Fractures on the front-most teeth, the canines and incisors, are usually pretty obvious.
Fractures on the back teeth, the molars and premolars, especially on the top jaw, may not be visible properly. However, you will be able to feel the difference and the sharp edge of the broken tooth with your tongue.
Though some fractures can happen gradually without your notice, most happen quickly.
Our teeth are hard enough to withstand a good amount of force in most cases but you will likely experience some kind of blow or injury that causes the tooth to break.
Sometimes, heavy forces of mastication can also cause a tooth to be fractured.
The slow, surprise fracture is usually the result of some sort of untreated dental issue that weakens the tooth structure and results in a fracture.
For example, if you have a cracked tooth, it may eventually fracture as the result of repeated stress.
Tooth fractures can range from minor (involving chipping of the outer tooth layers) to severe (involving vertical, diagonal, or horizontal fractures of the tooth and/or root).
The crack in a cracked tooth may be entirely contained within the crown of the tooth, or it may extend vertically into the root portion of the tooth.
Also, because a cracked tooth may progress apically, rather than laterally, there is a greater chance of pulpal and periapical pathology.
The location and extent of the crack may be difficult to determine.
Removing old restorations in the presence of a crack is a starting point. Proper diagnosis and preventive strategies are recommended for the treatment of cracked teeth.
Depending upon the crack extent and depth and structural integrity of the remaining tooth, the dentist decides what mode of treatment is appropriate.
An untreated cracked tooth can cause split tooth in which the tooth splits into two parts.
The split may occur suddenly, but is typically the result of the long-term growth from an incomplete crack.
Prompt treatment offers the best chance of saving the tooth. However, if the crack extends into the gum line, that tooth may need to be extracted.
Vertical root fracture can also begin below the gum line and travels upward. The prognosis of vertical root fracture is virtually hopeless in all cases.
Dentists in Delhi are usually conservative in their approach. However, if there is a vertical fracture of the root then extraction is mandatory.
Whether your tooth cracks from an injury or a heavy/traumatic bite, you can experience a variety of symptoms ranging from erratic pain when you chew your food to sudden pain when your tooth is exposed to very hot or cold temperatures.
Patient symptoms are variable, as well. Some patients will exhibit some symptoms; some will not exhibit any symptoms.
Fractures can be hard to diagnose. Unfortunately, as sometimes fractured/cracked tooth doesn’t show up the cracked tooth. This is because the x-ray beam must be parallel to the crack before it can penetrate it.
However, the crack can be present for many years before you start to feel any pain. Due to this reason, regular checkups with your dentist are recommended.
They can become more serious the longer you wait to treat them. This is why you should never put off going to the dentist. Let your dentist diagnose you and fix it before they get any worse.
Diagnosing cracks and treatment planning for tooth longevity are critical factors for helping patients maintain their teeth.
Causes of a cracked/fractured tooth
- It can be due to variety of issues, including:
- Blows to the mouth, chin or lower jaw due to a car accident, sports injury, a fall etc
- Pressure from teeth grinding which can put the teeth under enormous pressure
- Due to a traumatic/heavy bite
- Large fillings that weaken the tooth.
- Chewing or biting hard foods, such as biting on hard ice, nuts, or hard candy
- Abrupt temperature changes in the mouth such as from eat something extremely hot and then trying to cool your mouth with ice water
- Age, as most teeth cracks occurr in people over 50 years of age
- Sudden changes in mouth temperature.
Symptoms of a cracked/fractured tooth
Not every fractured tooth will produce symptoms. The signs can be difficult to spot and the symptoms will vary but common ones include:
- Pain when chewing or biting, especially when you release the biting pressure
- Pain that comes and goes, but is rarely continuous
- Swelling of the gum around the affected tooth
- Discomfort due to extreme temperatures, especially cold or sensitivity to sweetness, but with no signs of decay.
Treatment for a cracked tooth
There are different degrees of severity associated with dental fractures so there can be a few different ways to approach the situation.
Treatment depends on the size of the crack, where it’s located, your symptoms, and the amount of damage to the tooth or whether the crack extends into the gum line.
Depending on those factors, your dentist would be able to give you a proper treatment plan. Dentists in India are educating patients to be more aware of the health of their teeth and should consult the dentist, even if there are micro fractures.
It is important to get advice as soon as possible to help the treatment be more effective.
If the tooth is broken so far as to reveal the nerve part inside usually calls for immediate care. Such cases are salvaged in dental clinics in India by doing root canals.
If not treated, a fractured tooth can lead to the death of the nerve, and an abscess might grow.
If your tooth is bleeding or is noticeably missing a chunk, you need to go to a dentist immediately.
In severe cases the tooth may need to be taken out, but not always. So it is important to get advice as soon as possible.
Some precautions which you can take are wearing a nightguard, if you grind your teeth at night to protect your teeth and avoid biting or chewing on hard objects. Nightguards are being used as a preventive treatment in many dental clinics in Delhi to prevent fractures.
Tooth cracks represent a day-to-day finding in our dental practices. Identifying and classifying cracks will provide some guidance as to treatment planning and treatment outcome.
Proper diagnosis and crack treatment will provide longevity and predictability of care.
Posted by- Dr Shriya