If you experience pain when you bite down, it might indicate that you have a cracked tooth. Left untreated, a cracked tooth can lead to oral health problems, including tooth decay, pulp infection, and dental abscesses.
Symptoms of a cracked tooth include pain when biting down, sensitivity to hot or cold food or drinks, and swelling and bleeding around the affected tooth.
How to Avoid Cracking a Tooth
While small cracks like craze lines are a natural part of wear and tear to the teeth, larger cracks due to dental trauma or decay can be prevented. Some things you can do to avoid cracking a tooth include:
- Brush and floss regularly. This removes plaque and bacteria from your teeth, which can cause acid erosion, weakening them and making them more susceptible to cracking.
- Avoid biting hard foods and objects. Biting items like hard nuts, candy, ice, and packaging can put undue stress on your teeth, leading to cracks.
- Visit your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings. This allows your dentist to catch any potential problems early and helps keep your teeth healthy and strong.
- Wear a mouthguard. If you play contact sports or grind your teeth while you sleep, talk to your dentist about getting a custom mouthguard. These devices reduce friction between teeth and absorb shocks from impact to minimize the risk of tooth fractures and wear and tear.
Symptoms of a Cracked Tooth
If you think you have a cracked tooth, visit a dentist as soon as possible. They can evaluate the extent of the damage and recommend treatment. Contact your dentist if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Pain When Eating or Drinking. Cracks in teeth expose the dentin layer, which can cause pain when eating or drinking, and sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures.
- Swollen Gums Surrounding the Cracked Tooth. A crack in your tooth can allow bacteria to enter and cause an infection. Swollen gums, along with inflammation, are a symptom of an oral infection.
- Tooth Discomfort. You may experience pain when you chew or apply pressure to the tooth. The pain may be sharp and temporary, or it may be dull and persistent. If the crack is small, you may not notice much discomfort. However, if the crack is large or extends to the root of the tooth, you may experience severe pain, indicating that the tooth requires immediate attention from an emergency dentist.
In some cases, a cracked tooth can also lead to pain in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
There are several treatment options available for cracked teeth, and the best choice for your smile depends on the severity of the crack:
Dental fillings are a standard treatment used to fill cavities, restoring a minor to a moderately cracked tooth to its original shape and function. Fillings are typically made from tooth-colored composite resin to blend seamlessly with your smile.
A dental crown is a durable, tooth-shaped cap that covers and protects a cracked tooth.
Crowns are made from various materials, including metal, ceramic, and porcelain. Your dentist will recommend the best type of crown, depending on the tooth’s location in your mouth and the crack’s severity.
The procedure for getting a crown usually takes two visits to the dentist. During the first visit, the tooth is prepared by removing a layer of enamel, and an impression is taken. The impression is then sent to an off-site lab where the crown is custom-made.
The permanent crown is bonded to the tooth at your second appointment. With proper care, dental crowns can last 10 to 15 years.