Teeth are composed of three main materials: the outer shell or enamel; the inner support structure, called dentin; and the pulp, containing nerves and blood vessels, in the very center of the tooth. Tooth cracks that only affect the enamel may not even create symptoms. Once the crack progresses to the dentin, allowing access to the sensitive nerves underneath, painful symptoms are sure to follow. Here are the typical symptoms of a cracked tooth and the different types of cracked teeth that are dealt with through endodontics by our Carmichael endodontist.
Symptoms of Cracked Teeth
Every tooth is slightly different in its shape and structure, and cracks are essentially like snowflakes — no two are ever alike. Therefore, the symptoms of a cracked tooth vary and a patient may have all or none of these symptoms.
- Painful chewing
- Sensitivity to hot or cold foods
- Swelling of the gum around a specific tooth
- Erratic toothache that comes and goes without explanation
You may suspect a cracked tooth due to these symptoms, or one of our dentists may see the crack when examining your annual x-rays. Treating a crack as soon as possible is important to prevent it from spreading further and causing the loss of the tooth.
Types of Cracked Teeth
There five basic types of tooth cracks that range from simple to serious.
- Craze lines — these are surface level cracks on the enamel that do not reach the dentin underneath. They generally cause no pain and are usually not a threat to get significantly larger.
- Fractured cusp — here a chunk of enamel that forms part of the chewing surface and a side or corner of the tooth breaks off. The pulp is intact and if the root is damaged, it is only slightly hurt at the top. This type of break can usually be repaired with a crown, saving the tooth.
- Enamel crack —this crack starts in the enamel and moves up and down vertically. If caught early, it can be repaired with a crown. If ignored, the crack almost always spreads to the root. Once it reaches the root, the tooth cannot be repaired.
- Split tooth —the tooth is split from top to bottom. The tooth cannot be saved and must be extracted. A dental implant is the best possible restoration.
- Vertical root fracture — this cracks starts at the very tip of the root and works its way up the tooth. Depending on the nature of the crack, the tooth may be saved through endodontic surgery. Again, rapid treatment is key to preventing the crack from spreading further.
If you have symptoms of a cracked tooth, you can see that immediate treatment is important to avoid an extraction. Even if the tooth cannot be saved, leaving it in place leads to infection, damage to the gums and jaws, and potentially life-threatening complications. Always seek help from the Marconi Dental Group as soon as possible if you show any signs of a cracked tooth.