Teeth consist of a protective outer layer called enamel, the inner support structure called dentin, and the innermost core called the pulp, containing nerves and blood vessels. When you get a cracked tooth in the enamel alone, it might be superficial and not even cause issues. It still requires examination, however, because if the crack goes further, the dentin has no way to protect the nerves in the pulp from being affected by the breach. If any foreign substance like liquid or air gets through the crack and touches the nerves, the result is a sharp pain. And since bacteria are microscopic, they will eventually make their way through any significant crack to do major damage.
Enter the Endodontist
Endodontics is the branch of dentistry focusing on procedures to maintain the pulp within your teeth (from Greek, endo- means inside and –odont means tooth). An endodontist is therefore a dentist with specialized training for working deep inside teeth. This training includes identifying different types of cracks that happen to teeth, falling into five categories:
- Craze lines – surface level cracks on the enamel. These are like the superficial crack mentioned earlier, generally cause no pain, and do not pose a threat to the dentin.
- Fractured cusp – part of the enamel that forms the chewing surface breaks off. With this crack, the pulp stays undamaged, and the enamel is typically repaired with a crown.
- Enamel crack – this is a vertical crack in the enamel with the potential to spread downward. If repaired with a crown early, further damage is avoided. If left to continue spreading. It will eventually reach the root. At this point, the tooth cannot be repaired and replacement is necessary.
- Split tooth – the tooth is cracked from top to bottom. If this happens, the tooth cannot be repaired and must be extracted. Replacement with a dental implant is the best option.
- Vertical root fracture – This crack starts at the tip of the root and works its way upward. In some cases, endodontic surgery could save the tooth from being extracted, but the problem must be identified early on.
Since cracks like vertical root fractures depend on early diagnosis, it’s important to note the symptoms of a cracked tooth, which include:
- Sensitivity to hot or cold foods
- Pain when chewing
- Gums swelling around a specific tooth
- A toothache that comes and goes
If you have one or more of these symptoms, please call the Marconi Dental Group in Carmichael or schedule a consultation here on our website so we can discuss the issue with you. A prudent exam including x-ray images of your tooth will verify if there is a crack, and it allows the endodontist to identify what kind. At that point, your endodontist goes over all the options for repairing the crack before it spreads.
Schedule an Endodontic Consultation