What happens when your tooth cracks? Cracked teeth can be painful and problematic, but with the right care, they can be treated effectively. This page will guide you through understanding cracked teeth and how endodontic treatment can help.
What Causes a Tooth to Crack?
Teeth are strong, but they’re not invincible. Several incidents can lead to a cracked tooth:
- Chewing on hard objects: Objects like ice, hard candy, or even non-food items can put too much pressure on your teeth.
- Accidents: Falls, sports injuries, or any direct blow to the mouth can result in a cracked tooth.
- Old fillings: Large fillings can weaken the surrounding tooth structure, making it more susceptible to cracks.
- Grinding or clenching: Over time, grinding your teeth can cause them to crack.
Types of Cracked Teeth
Not all cracks in teeth are the same — and not all cracked teeth require endodontic treatment. Here are some common types of fractures or cracks in teeth:
- Craze lines: Tiny cracks that only affect the outer enamel of the tooth. These are usually not painful and don’t require treatment.
- Fractured cusp: When a piece of the tooth’s chewing surface breaks off. This often occurs around a filling.
- Cracked tooth: This crack extends from the chewing surface down toward the root. Left untreated, it can get worse and cause more problems.
- Split tooth: This means the tooth has split into two distinct segments. It’s often the result of an untreated cracked tooth.
- Vertical root fracture: A crack that starts in the root and moves upward. These are often not noticed until the surrounding bone and gum become infected.
Symptoms of a Cracked Tooth
How do you know if you have a cracked tooth? Look out for these signs:
- Pain when chewing or biting
- Sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet foods and drinks
- Pain that comes and goes
- Swelling around the gum area
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s essential to see a dentist as soon as possible.
Endodontic Treatment for Cracked Teeth
Endodontics is a specialized branch of dentistry focused on treating the inside of the tooth, known as the pulp. When a tooth cracks, the pulp can be exposed or damaged, leading to pain and potential infection. In these cases, endodontic treatment may be necessary to save the tooth and avoid extraction.
Root Canal Therapy
One of the most common endodontic treatments for cracked teeth is a root canal. Here’s a simple breakdown of what’s involved:
- Cleaning: The dentist removes any infected or damaged pulp from inside the tooth.
- Filling: After cleaning, the space is filled with a material called gutta-percha to seal it.
- Restoration: Often, the tooth will then be capped with a crown to restore its shape and function.
Root canal therapy is a three-step process designed to treat and save a cracked tooth that has damaged or exposed pulp. It alleviates pain, prevents further complications, and ensures the tooth remains functional and aesthetically pleasing. If you suspect you have a cracked tooth, seeking prompt treatment can make the difference between saving and losing the tooth.
When a tooth crack reaches deep into the root, simple endodontic treatments might not suffice. In such scenarios, endodontic surgery becomes essential to save the tooth and prevent further complications. The most frequently performed surgery for this issue is an apicoectomy.
During an apicoectomy, the dentist or endodontist accesses the tip of the tooth’s root, known as the "apex." This procedure involves:
- Making a Small Incision: The oral surgeon creates a tiny opening in the gum tissue near the affected tooth, to expose the underlying bone and the root’s tip.
- Removing the Infected or Damaged Tissue: Any inflamed or infected tissue, along with the last few millimeters of the root tip, is carefully removed.
- Sealing the End: After removing the apex, the end of the root canal is sealed with a biocompatible material, which ensures bacteria can’t infiltrate and cause further infections.
- Closing Up: The incision in the gum is stitched back, and over time, the bone heals around the end of the root.
This surgical approach is often a last-resort measure to preserve a cracked tooth. This ensures its health and functionality while preventing potential infections or abscesses.
Preventing Cracked Teeth
Although accidents happen, you can take steps to reduce the risk of cracking a tooth:
- Avoid chewing on hard objects like ice cubes, pen tops, etc.
- Wear a mouthguard during sports or physical activities
- If you grind your teeth, talk to us about a nightguard.
Cracked teeth can be painful and disruptive, but with the right care, they can be effectively treated. Endodontic treatments, like root canals and surgery, offer solutions to ensure your oral health remains in top shape. If you suspect you have a cracked tooth, don’t wait. Seek dental care immediately to prevent further complications.
Need Help with a Cracked Tooth?
Endodontic treatment for cracked teeth is a crucial part of what we do at Ritter Endodontics.
If you have questions or concerns about endodontic treatments for cracked teeth, please reach out to the helpful team at Ritter Endodontics at (919) 403-5000. We’d love to help however we can.