Cracked tooth syndrome is an incognito dental problem that often begins with mild pain that worsens over time and can lead to more severe oral disease. A crack in the tooth that is too small to detect with basic x-rays, or that is under the gum or otherwise unidentifiable, can be classified as cracked tooth syndrome. Although this problem occurs most frequently on molars, which take the majority of the pressure from biting into hard foods, it’s not impossible to develop cracked tooth syndrome on any tooth.
Do I have Cracked Tooth Syndrome?
Because of the nature of this dental problem, cracked tooth syndrome is sometimes difficult to identify. However, if you’ve recently had an accident that affected your mouth, or have chewed on something very crunchy or sharp like nuts or an ice cube, and experience several of the following symptoms, you may have cracked tooth syndrome.
- Sharp pain when biting down, eating, or drinking, that quickly disappears
- Pain that comes and goes
- Pain is caused by certain types of foods (sweet or sour, or hot or cold)
- Pain with no noticeable cause – no other gum irritation, visible crack, or other explanation
Even if they’re too small to identify, cracks in your teeth can be extremely painful and can irritate and damage the pulp, or innermost part of your teeth. If your tooth is sensitive to heat or cold, you may have damaged the pulp in your tooth, which houses delicate nerve endings. Damaged pulp can also lead to disease and infection, so see your dentist right away if you think you may have a cracked tooth.
Why Do I have Cracked Tooth Syndrome?
Cracking a tooth is easier than it sounds; while the human mouth is designed to handle all types of food, from plants to meats, a well-placed hard object or piece of food can cause a crack of any size. Accidents that cause mouth trauma, like a fall, minor car accident, or other collision can lead to a cracked tooth. Your teeth can also crack if they’re exposed to extreme heat and cold – not unlike an ice cube cracking when it’s placed in warm water, the combination of hot and cold too close together can severely damage your enamel and cause a small – or large – crack.
Additional risk factors for cracked tooth syndrome include:
- Recent root canal treatment or tooth fillings
- Grinding or clenching your teeth
- A misaligned jaw or teeth, which can put too much pressure on individual teeth when biting down
How Do I Treat my Cracked Tooth Syndrome?
Always visit your dentist for a consultation before beginning any at-home remedies for your cracked tooth, as you may not be able to tell the severity of the crack without an x-ray or a professional eye. There are several dental procedures available for people with cracked tooth syndrome, depending on the type of crack. Crowns (for cracks near the exposed end of the tooth) or bonding (for minor cracks) with a resin seal can provide natural-looking, noninvasive repair for a cracked tooth. For cracks that have reached the inside of your tooth, which are often much more painful, your dentist may recommend a root canal, which treats the pulp of your tooth to prevent infection. Once a severe crack has breached the gum line, it becomes untreatable, meaning your dentist will likely recommend that you have the tooth removed and replaced with an implant. In this procedure, a new crown is fixed on top of a screw, which eventually fuses with your jawbone and functions just like the rest of your teeth.
If you’ve been experiencing sharp pain when eating, or pain that comes and goes seemingly without explanation, talk to your dentist about cracked tooth syndrome to discuss your treatment options.