A cracked or fractured tooth is tricky to identify and a dentist treatment does not always successfully take away symptoms. Cracked tooth syndrome happens when your tooth fractures, but does not completely chip. When you visit our Spokane Valley dentist practice, you get an exam and X-rays, and we can sometimes catch a cracked tooth after a routine check, and treat it quickly. But the sad truth is, some fine fractures don’t show on X-rays and when the crack is not visible above the gum line, we can’t spot it. This is terrible, since a cracked tooth can be dangerous, it opens up the tooth to bacteria and infection. There’s a possibility a cracked tooth will need to be removed, but as your dentist, we will do everything to repair and store the tooth.
There are some symptoms you watch out for, so you can catch a cracked tooth early. If you suspected a fracture, visit your dentist Spokane Valley as soon as you can, you can come to us or any dentist who can treat dental trauma. Individuals at high risk for cracked tooth syndrome are those who are prone to teeth grinding or jaw clenching because of emotional stress, often eat hard food like nuts, use teeth as tools such as a bottle opener substitute, or are just plain clumsy. If you have fillings, previous root canals or crowns, your teeth are not as strong as a natural teeth and fracture more easily.
Pain While Chewing or Biting
The most common symptom for cracked tooth syndrome is pain. Strangely, even this symptom is not always consistent. If the break in the tooth is not too deep, you won’t even feel pain. But if you do, you will feel a sharp pain when biting, chewing, grinding teeth or eating and drinking hot or cold food and drinks. This pain is usually specific to one tooth, but not always, it could also be a general area pain. If you can pinpoint which tooth is giving you pain, tell your dental professional, don’t keep us guessing! Remember, a fractured tooth can be difficult to identify. It’s not like a cavity where it’s black and you can see a hole on the tooth. On the surface, a fractured tooth can look perfectly healthy and normal.
If you know which tooth is painful, or just the general area of your teeth is painful, use a bite test to verify which tooth is damaged. With the use of a cotton bud, Popsicle stick or a pencil, make sure it’s clean, bite on the wood, targeting one tooth at a time. You won’t feel much pain biting down, because the pressure from your bite restricts blood flow and numbs the nerves. But when you release the bite, the nerves are released and you should feel a quick stab from the fractured tooth. Again, this doesn’t happen all the time, you’re not just imagining things when pain is not consistent. So don’t be shy about doing the test a few more times.
There are a few other vague symptoms that are associated with cracked tooth syndrome, including headaches, pain on the affected side of your jaw, and even ear pain. So if you’re tooth hurts and other parts of your face or head hurts too, that could be a sign. People who habitually grind their teeth, depending on the severity of your grinding habit, will also have cracked teeth. And it’s usually not just one cracked tooth, but several. If you suspect you have a tooth fracture, but it’s not seriously bothering you yet, don’t put off a dentist visit. The fracture can deepen, affecting the tooth pulp and the root, which will only cause more pain, increase risk for infection, and even result to pulp death. At this point, extracting the tooth may be the only option.
What Your Family Dentist Can do
When you visit your dentist, what we can do is first identify the affected tooth or teeth. There are a few ways to do this, including the bite test already previously explained. If an X-Ray does not work, there’s also the option of using a special dye and light to find minute cracks on the surface. If we can identify the tooth, but can’t see the crack, it could be hidden under a filling or below the gum line. Teeth with huge fillings or a crowns can be taken out to have a better view of the tooth. There are also tell tale signs such as swelling of the gums around the tooth.
Treatment depends on the depth and direction of the fracture. The worst that can happen is that the fracture splits right down the root, but this is less common. More likely, you’re crown or filling is fractured, it’s the first to crack because they do wear out. The crown or filling is easily replaced. If it’s your natural tooth that’s cracked, it’s most likely to be superficial, only on the top part of the tooth. Then filling or even a crown can fix that. However, one in five cases have fractures that reach deeper, and a root canal will be needed to save the tooth.
The last option is tooth extraction, since a cracked tooth lets in bacteria and an infection can go deep under the tooth and affect the jaw, then just taking out that tooth would be the safest option. But even an extracted tooth can be replaced with an implant. Sometimes a root canal is not enough to take away the pain completely. This is very rare, but it happens.