Cracked tooth, fractured tooth be treated?, treatment for a cracked tooth, What can I do to prevent my teeth from cracking?
cracked tooth, fractured tooth be treated?, treatment for a cracked tooth, What can I do to prevent my teeth from cracking?
Cracked and Fractured Teeth
Because people are living longer and dentists are helping keep teeth longer, teeth are being exposed to years of crack inducing habits. Particularly, clenching, grinding, and chewing hard things such as ice can result in cracks and fractures in teeth. Typically teeth with cracks/fractures do not show on radiographs (x-rays). Hence, cracked and fractured teeth can especially be difficult to locate. When the outer hard tissues of a tooth are fractured or cracked, chewing can cause movement of the pieces and the pulp becomes irritated. Often this results in a momentary, sharp pain which eventually progresses to include thermal sensitivity. In time the cracked or fractured tooth, similar to other teeth with pulp degeneration, can begin to hurt on itÔÇÖs own.
How do I know if my tooth is Cracked or Fractured?
Does your tooth feel like it “zaps” you when bite on it? Well, that’s not enough to know it’s cracked or fractured. Unfortuantely, cracked and fractured teeth exhibit a variety of symptoms. If your tooth is cracked/fractured, you might feel occasional pain when chewing, particularly between bites as you release the pressure on your teeth. You might also feel pain when you eat or drink something hot or cold. Cracks and fractures are fairly difficult to diagnose because the pain comes and goes, and cracks/fractures only rarely show up on x-rays. Because of this, you may see your dentist several times before the crack is diagnosed.
Don’t all Cracked/Fractured teeth hurt?
Not all cracked and fractured teeth hurt. It really depends on the severity of the crack and the pulps response to the irritants allowed into the tooth. Commonly it’s not until they become symptomatic that we get involved. A crack/fracture can make the tooth sensitive due to movement of the fractured tooth pieces and/or leaking irritants into the pulp and even allow bacteria to come right in causing eventual infection of the tooth. Let’s take a closer look at a normal healthy tooth.
Inside the tooth, under the white enamel is a hard layer called the dentin, and there is the inner soft tissue called the pulp. The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. The pulp is a vestige of what originally formed your tooth when you were a kid!
When the outer hard tissues of the tooth are cracked, the chewing can cause movement of the pieces, and the pulp can become irritated. When biting pressure is released, the crack can close quickly, resulting in a momentary, sharp pain. Irritation of the dental pulp can be repeated many times by chewing. Eventually, the pulp will become damaged to the point that it can no longer heal itself. The tooth will not only hurt when chewing but may also become sensitive to temperature extremes. In time, a cracked tooth may begin to hurt all by itself. Extensive cracks can lead to infection of the pulp tissue, which can spread to the bone and gum tissue surrounding the tooth.
How can you check to see if my tooth
has a crack and/or fracture?
No single test or technique provides the correct diagnosis 100% of the time. In fact, if a restoration is present, it can become quite difficult to diagnose without removing the restoration or drilling a hole into the tooth. Most of the time we use a transilluminating light and see if the light transmits from one side of the tooth to the other. Of course, fillings don’t transmit the light the same so it’s even harder to tell when cracks or fractures are present in teeth with restorations. A trained eye can spot the difference.
Probable cuspal fracture
A biting test can be performed. We concentrate the biting forces commonly using an instrument as seen below. This can isolate specific areas of the tooth that might be sensitive to bite, but does not tell us the underlying cause of the discomfort.
Tooth Slooth Biting Test on each Cusp
Sometimes some dye might be used to temporarily stain the tooth, and check to see if a tooth is fractured. It is then washed off and evaluated. This is most commonly done once access to root canals is obtained.
Stained Cracked Tooth
(Blue Stain Can be fully removed after diagnosis)
Are All Cracks and Fractures
seen on the outside of teeth Bad?
Craze lines are tiny cracks that affect only the outer enamel of the tooth. They are common in all adult teeth and cause no pain. Craze lines need no treatment. They do NOT extend into dentin. Hence, these cracks are observed in most teeth and are considered normal. They are the result of “wear and tear” on teeth.
Hence, the answer is no, not all cracks seen on the outside of teeth are bad.
Does my Cracked or Fractured tooth need to be Treated?
That depends. If the crack/fracture is caught early enough, often times only a restoration that holds the tooth together will be needed. Once the pulp begins to degenerate and/or becomes infected, it must be treated endodontically if the tooth is going to be maintained. Like cracks in a windshield, cracks in teeth can often remain small or progress slowly over time. I believe that the sooner a crack or fracture is detected and appropriate treatment delivered, the better the chance of maintaining your tooth.
How will my cracked/fractured tooth be treated?
The treatment of your cracked tooth depends on the
type, location, and severity of the crack.
All of the common cracks and fractures of the crown region start on the surface and work there way into the tooth toward the end of the root.
Common Cracks and Fractures of the Crown region
(Top Part of the tooth above the gumline)
Cracked Tooth Split Tooth
Cuspal Fracture: When a cusp or the pointed part of the chewing surface of your tooth becomes weakened, the cusp will fracture. Part of the cusp may break off or may need to be removed by your dentist. Depending upon the extent of the fracture, the pulp may also become damaged. Endodontic therapy is needed when the pulp is damaged beyond repair and a crown will be placed to help protect the tooth and replace the fractured tooth structure.
Cracked Tooth: This type of crack extends from the chewing surface of the tooth vertically towards the root and sometimes below the gum line. A cracked tooth is not completely split into two distinct movable segments. If caught early enough, the tooth is usually crowned but endodontic therapy may be needed at a later date (typically in the first 6 months). Nonsurgical endodontic therapy (root canal) will be needed when the pulp becomes substantially injured or exposed. During endodontic therapy the inside crown portion of the tooth is stained with a temporary dye and viewed microscopically for the extent of the fracture. Prognosis depends on the severity of the crack. A full crown is needed to hold the tooth together.
Split Tooth: A split tooth is a cracked tooth in which the crack has progressed so there are 2 distinct segments that can be separated from one another. Unfortunately, with todayÔÇÖs technology, a split tooth can never be saved intact. The extent and position of the crack will determine if any portion can be maintained but most of these teeth will be extracted. In rare instances, endodontic treatment, possibly some gum surgery, and a crown may be used to retain a portion of the tooth.
After treatment for a cracked tooth, will my tooth completely heal?
Unlike a broken bone, the fracture in a cracked tooth will never completely heal. In fact, even after treatment, it is possible that a crack may continue to worsen and separate, resulting in the loss of the tooth.
The treatment you receive for your cracked tooth is important because it will relieve pain and reduce the likelihood that the crack will worsen. Once treated, most cracked teeth continue to function and provide years of comfortable chewing. Talk to your dentist and/or endodontist about your particular diagnosis and treatment recommendations. They will advise you on how to keep your natural teeth and achieve optimum dental health.
How long will a cracked or fractured tooth last?
Good question. I don’t have a really good answer though. It seems somewhat related to if the crack/fracture extends below the gum line alot. The problem is it’s like a crack in a windshield, it can stay the same or spread. This means it’s difficult to predict how long a fractured/cracked tooth will be maintained in your mouth. I’ve got one and have had the tooth for 13 years without any problems, but I can’t say if that’s what will happen in your case. The good news is they have good success rates, typically 70% I believe.
What can I do to prevent my teeth from cracking?
While cracked teeth are not completely preventable, you can take some steps to make your teeth less susceptible to cracks.
Don’t chew on hard objects such as ice, unpopped popcorn kernels or pens.
Don’t clench or grind your teeth.
If you clench or grind your teeth while you sleep, talk to your dentist about getting a retainer or other mouthguard to protect your teeth.
Wear a mouthguard or a mask when playing contact sports.
If you experience symptoms of a fractured or cracked tooth, see your dentist immediately. If detected early, a cracked/fractured tooth can often be more likely to be maintained.
Fractures of the Root which start below the Gumline
Vertical Root Fractures or ‘Split Root’
Signs & Symptoms Typically symptoms are associated with a tooth that has had endodontic therapy. If you have persistent symptoms which do not appear on a radiograph or x-ray, you tooth may have a tiny fracture in the root but keep in mind other causes can produce the same symptom. Also these teeth commonly present with bone loss around an entire root in more advanced fractures and often go unnoticed until surrounding bone and gums become infected.
Causes Commonly a complication from endodontic therapy. Sometimes believed to exacerbated by large post placement.
Diagnosis In many cases, endodontic micro surgery allows the visualization of your root to determine the problem. The gums are reflected to expose the root and a stain or dye used to make the fracture more noticeable. Sometimes during the retreatment process, the use of a microscope can detect the fracture as long as it’s not around a curve. If a fiberscope can be placed, that may also be used for diagnosis of this type of fracture.
Direction of Fracture Vertical root fractures begin in the root typically near the end and extend toward the chewing surface.
Treatment Treatment for a single rooted teeth is usually extraction. Multirooted teeth may have the affected root removed in some cases.
Most adults have have craze lines and they cause little concern. They are tiny cracks that only affect the outer enamel of the tooth, are painless and may affect the cosmetic appearance of the tooth. These lines allow light to pass through them to light up the whole crown of the tooth. If there is a crack, light will not pass through.
When a cusp becomes weakened, a fracture may result. A fractured cusp rarely damages the pulp. This tooth will need to be restored with a full crown.
This type of crack extends from the chewing surface of the tooth and vertically migrates towards the root. Damage to the pulp is common. A root canal treatment is usually necessary. A cracked tooth that is not treated will worsen, resulting in the loss of the tooth.
A split tooth is usually the result of an untreated cracked tooth. It can be identified by a crack with distinct segments. The position and extent of the problem will dictate whether any portion of the tooth can be saved.
Vertical Root Fracture
A vertical root fracture begins at the root and extends towards the chewing surface of the tooth. Treatment may involve root surgery if a portion of the tooth can be saved extracted.
Cracked Tooth Syndrome
Cracked tooth syndrome is a very common problem that affects teeth that have large fillings in them. Decay and large fillings causes a weakening in the remaining tooth structure over time. A hairline fracture often develops at the bottom corner of the filling.
Grinding your teeth will cause massive increase in the stress and stain on your premolars and molars increasing the risk of this condition. Also, having worn down fillings or canines will increase your risk factors toward this condition.
The reason it hurts to bite when you have a cracked tooth is the fact that your tooth is flexing which microscopically stimulates the nerve in the tooth. These hairline cracks open and close which applies pressure on tubules that run down the nerve of the tooth causing fluid to push and pull on the tooth’s nerve resulting in pain. The nerve in the cracked tooth is also being exposed to bacterial toxins that become inflamed making it sensitive allowing infection to spread to the nerve and bone tissue underneath resulting in an abscess. If the crack goes untreated it will spread and deepen like a crack in glass and a part of the tooth may break off causing a need for a root canal or extraction.
Sensitive to hot and cold
Pain upon release of biting pressure which may come and go when you release from biting because the crack will close quickly causing pain.
Clinical Test To Check Diagnosis
The only way to diagnose a fracture is through interpreting a tooth’s response to temperature and touch.
Thorough dental history.
Check for a history of trauma, clenching or bruxism and chewing habits like, ice
History of bite adjustments
Examine the teeth with an explorer
Check hot and cold sensitivity. If a sharp pain is felt with temperature, and the pain rapidly diminishes with removal of the stimulus, then a fracture is more likely.
Probe the gum tissue for pocketing
Check for a cracked filling
Using a cotton roll, rubber wheel or bite stick, you will be asked to bite down liken on chewing gum to help isolate each tooth
A filling might need to be removal to help visualize the crack and assess nerve involvement.
A fracture will probably not improve and will eventually need to be treated. Teeth do have a limited ability to heal themselves. Unfortunately, fractured teeth do not heal themselves like other bones in your body. The only real solution to hold the tooth together and to prevent the tooth from breaking is with a crown. A crown will allow chewing forces to move the whole tooth rather than splitting it apart. This full crown is bonded over the entire tooth to seal all the small cracks and prevent bacterial leakage thus allowing the nerve to recover and stabilize.
About 10% of cracked teeth have nerves that can still die and need root canal treatment. Early treatment can help to minimize this from happening. If you decide to refuse treatment for this condition remember that that tooth is like a ticking time bomb that will suddenly flare up and cause sever pain, swelling, pus and possible bone loss that will put stress on your immune system and may affect your overall health.
Broken Tooth What causes teeth to break?
One factor is silver fillings. These fillings have been found to enlarge as they age which may cause some outward pressure as you chew or bite. Over time this can cause a broken tooth. A more common type of fracture is when the inside area of the tooth breaks off, this fracture can usually be easily repaired. Bruxism is one of the most common causes of teeth breaking.