Symptoms of a cracked tooth are varied and may include pain when chewing, sensitivity to hot and cold food and drink, pressure sensitivity or a combination of these. Because the pain often comes and goes, it can be very difficult to recognize what is causing the problem.
It can sometimes even be difficult to identify exactly which tooth is causing the discomfort. That is why your dentist may refer you to an Endodontics specialist. Endodontists use surgical microscopes and other tools that can be different from a general dentist’s technology and tools.
Continuing to chew on a cracked tooth can lead to more damage as well as creating the potential for pain and infection. Even small movement of the cracked tooth pieces during chewing can cause irritation to the tooth’s pulp, which causes pain. Similarly, when the bite is released, the crack can close quickly, causing sharp pain. Over time, the tooth pulp will become damaged. As this happens, the tooth will hurt more consistently. Cracks can sometimes lead to infections in the pulp tissue and spread to the surrounding gum and bone.
Types of Cracks and Treatment
Small shallow cracks, known as craze lines, are very common and do not require treatment. These lines are in the tooth’s enamel surface and do not cause pain or damage. They do not cause any concern other than aesthetic considerations.
Another category involving a cracked tooth that may not cause pain is a fractured cusp. This is when the high-test part(s) of the tooth has a crack that may cause it to break off from the rest of the tooth. Although there may not be pain, it is best to have the tooth examined. There may be a portion of the tooth that needs to be removed to prevent further damage. As long as the fracture or break does not extend into the interior of the tooth, a root canal will most likely not be necessary.
When the tooth crack is vertical, from the chewing services and extending close to the root, a root canal will most likely be needed to relieve pain, prevent or heal infection, and save the tooth. Once the root canal treatment is complete your dentist can restore the tooth’s shape for function and appearance.
Cracked Tooth Beyond Gumline
A vertical crack that extends into the root and below the gumline may not be treatable and may require an extraction rather than a root canal and restoration.