Did you know that your tooth’s enamel – the hard, white outer surface – is the hardest substance in your body? Tooth enamel is even harder than bone, making it a source of protection to keep your smile healthy and functioning for your entire life. That said, traumatic injuries or every day habits like teeth grinding, clenching and chewing can actually cause cracked teeth, which in turn can case you pain and jeopardize the health and longevity of your smile.
While you may not be able to see your cracked teeth, you will likely be able to feel them. You may feel pressure or pain when biting down or chewing, or one or more teeth may suddenly become very sensitive to varying temperatures. Cracked teeth are painful because the hard tissues of the teeth – namely the enamel and dentin – are there to protect the pulp of the tooth, where your nerves reside. When the enamel and dentin are cracked, the pulp may be left exposed and can easily become irritated. These types of infection won’t just cause pain, but can also infect surrounding tissues like bone and gums.
Treating Cracked Teeth
Endodontic treatment for your cracked teeth depend on the severity of the problem. Fine, shallow cracks, commonly called “craze lines” do not cause pain and usually do not require any treatment. Other cases of cracked teeth, like fractured cusps, occur when a piece of the tooth’s chewing surface breaks off. This can usually be treated easily with a crown if there is no damage to the pulp.
More serious cracked teeth cases might include a vertical crack that extends from the chewing surface toward the root. A crack that has not yet extended beyond the gum line is likely treatable, often with a root canal procedure. However, cracks that extend beyond the gum line and into the root are usually difficult to treat, and the tooth may need to be extracted. This is why it’s imperative to contact an endodontist quickly if you have pain or suspect a cracked tooth.
Preventing Cracked Teeth
Cracked teeth can lead to extensive endodontic treatment or even require extraction. That’s why it’s important to prevent cracked teeth before they start or worsen. You can do this by treating teeth clenching or grinding habits (through a mouth guard or other device) and avoiding eating hard objects like ice and unpopped popcorn kernals.