Cracked tooth syndrome is a dental problem characterized by small cracks in the teeth, which often occur under the gum. Although any tooth can crack, cracks frequently occur in the lower molars – the teeth that get the most chewing action.
According to reports, splits or fractures of the teeth account for the third most common cause of tooth loss for people living in developed countries. Since cracked tooth syndrome can lead to tooth loss, it's important to learn more about the symptoms, how your dentist can diagnose the problem, and the habits that can cause cracks in your teeth.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of cracked tooth syndrome vary among individuals. Pain from a cracked tooth often radiates to areas other than at the site of the crack. The condition can cause tooth sensitivity to hot or cold. People often complain of pain when biting into foods. Unlike a cavity, cracked tooth syndrome does not usually cause constant pain.
Because pain doesn't always occur at the expected location, dentists sometimes have difficulty identifying cracked tooth syndrome. Sometimes it's even hard to tell which tooth hurts. As a result, you can suffer pain that comes and goes for months. But if left untreated, a crack can get larger, causing the tooth to loosen or a piece of the tooth to break off.
What are the causes?
Grinding your teeth or chewing on something hard, such as a pencil, hard candy, ice, or nuts, can cause cracks in teeth. A large cavity or the loss of a filling also can cause a tooth to crack.
A traumatic injury to the mouth is another factor that can lead to cracked tooth syndrome. Teeth that previously have had work done on them are more likely to crack as well.
How is it diagnosed?
Diagnosing cracked tooth syndrome isn't easy, since you can't always see cracks in teeth and tiny cracks don't always show up on x-rays. Dentists sometimes make the diagnosis based on a patient's symptoms and dental health history. If your dentist suspects cracked tooth syndrome as the cause of your tooth pain, he or she may use a fiber optic light to locate the crack.
What is the treatment?
How your dentist treats your cracked tooth depends on how badly the tooth is cracked and if the crack goes deeper than the tooth's outer enamel surface. For example, tiny cracks aren't as serious as a split tooth or when the tip of a molar breaks off. Although cracked teeth can sometimes be repaired with a crown, your dentist may recommend a root canal if the pulp of the tooth is affected. If you ignore the crack and over time it spreads to below the gum, you may need to have the tooth pulled. To learn more about dental procedures, click here to check it out.