Posted on: 01 July, 2021
A cracked tooth can be painful, but it can also leave you vulnerable to more serious problems. Find out about cracked tooth symptoms, causes and treatments.
5 minute read
A cracked tooth can be painful, but that might not be the worst of your problems. As well as possibly affecting your ability to eat, a crack can let bacteria inside your tooth or gum. This can lead to infections and other problems, not only in the mouth but throughout the body.
If you've cracked a tooth, you should see a dentist as soon as possible. They can examine your mouth and discuss treatments to repair the damage before it has the chance to get worse.
Whether a cracked tooth needs to be treated depends on how serious the damage is. Different types of cracks include:
More severe cracks in teeth should be considered a dental emergency and require urgent care.
Minor cracks may only affect a tooth's appearance and may be covered by cosmetic dentistry treatments such as tooth bonding or veneers if preferred.
A cracked tooth can feel painful or sensitive, but it may also lead to more serious health complications. These can include:
If cracked teeth make it difficult or uncomfortable to bite or chew, this could affect the type of foods you choose to eat or how well you chew your food before swallowing. These can lead to digestive issues or affect your diet and nutrition.
If a crack reaches the centre of your tooth, this leaves the soft tissue inside (the pulp) vulnerable to infection. Tooth pulp infections can be painful and require root canal therapy.
Deep cracks can let bacteria enter the gum or jaw bone, which can lead to an abscess forming. If tooth pain and sensitivity are accompanied by bad breath or signs of fever, you should make an emergency appointment with your dentist.
Cracked teeth are a major cause of tooth loss. The longer a cracked tooth goes untreated, the less likely it is to be saved. Deep cracks or fractures may require extraction to protect your healthy teeth.
There can be many reasons for a cracked tooth. Teeth are more likely to crack if they have already been weakened by tooth decay, acids or general wear and tear, but even a strong and healthy tooth may crack suddenly if it's injured.
Common reasons why teeth crack include:
Hard foods such as nuts, seeds, unpopped popcorn and hard candy can chip or crack teeth if you don't take care. You should also avoid biting, crunching or chewing non-food objects such as ice cubes, pencils and fingernails.
Blows to the mouth during sports, trips and falls, motor vehicle accidents, fights or other situations can cause serious damage to teeth, especially if you're not wearing a mouthguard.
If you grind or clench your teeth, this can put them under pressure and lead to cracks over time. Teeth grinding (known as bruxism) can happen during sleep or may be related to stress or other stimuli.
White fillings can repair cavities in teeth, but the treated tooth may be weakened as a result. Teeth with larger fillings such as inlays or onlays, can be more prone to cracking around the filling.
Sudden changes in temperature can sometimes shock a tooth and cause it to crack. For example, eating something hot followed by cold water.
Tooth enamel gradually wears down with age. This can make older people more likely to experience tooth damage, but it depends on how well you care for your teeth.
A cracked tooth isn't always obvious. You might not even know your tooth has cracked until you next see a dentist, but there can be some signs. These may include:
When you see a dentist, they may apply coloured dye to your teeth to make cracks more visible. They may also take an x-ray or other images of your mouth that allow them to see how deep the cracks go and help them to plan your treatment.
If your dentist diagnoses a cracked tooth, they will discuss suitable treatments to repair the tooth or lower the related health risks.
Treatment recommendations will depend on the type of crack and symptoms you have and your personal circumstances and preferences. They may include:
Tooth bonding can help treat minor cracks in teeth using a composite resin, similar to that used for fillings. Your dentist can fill the crack with liquid resin, which is hardened using UV light and looks like natural tooth enamel.
If a tooth has cracked around an old filling, a new filling or dental crown may be placed to restore the tooth's appearance and integrity. A crown may also be used to cover and protect teeth with deeper cracks or to seal a tooth following a root canal procedure.
If a crack has reached the centre of your tooth and the dental pulp is damaged or infected, root canal therapy could remove the infection and restore the tooth to good working order. This involves cleaning the inside of the tooth thoroughly and replacing the pulp with synthetic tissue. The tooth is then sealed using a crown.
Smaller surface cracks that aren't causing pain may be covered by dental veneers. This cosmetic treatment involves removing a thin layer of the tooth and replacing it with a porcelain or composite resin shell. Veneers may also be used to cover up other imperfections in teeth, including stains and gaps.
Teeth with deeper cracks or infections may sometimes need to be removed. Dentists only extract teeth if there are no other options, and they may recommend having the tooth replaced with a dental implant, bridge or denture to restore your bite and prevent the surrounding teeth from shifting position.
You can't always avoid dental injuries, but you can lower your risk of cracking teeth by keeping your teeth as strong and healthy as possible. This can involve preventive dental treatments or making changes to your daily habits, such as:
Preventing tooth decay also helps to prevent other tooth damage. Dentists recommend brushing your teeth twice a day using fluoride toothpaste, flossing at least once a day, drinking plenty of water and avoiding too much sugar in food and drink, as this feeds bacteria in plaque.
As well as minimising sugar, you should also avoid hard foods such as nuts and seeds that involve a risk of chipping or cracking teeth, especially if you already have weak or worn down teeth.
Custom mouthguards are recommended for people of all ages who take part in contact sports or other activities that put their teeth at risk of injury. Mouthguards that are custom made by a dentist offer more protection than store-bought mouthguards.
If you grind your teeth at night, your dentist may recommend a type of mouthguard known as an occlusal splint or night guard to prevent your teeth from coming together. They may also recommend that you try to reduce or avoid stress or other situations that may trigger teeth grinding.
If an uneven bite is putting pressure on your teeth, your dentist can discuss various teeth straightening options. These may include modern braces, Invisalign® clear aligners or other orthodontic systems, depending on your needs.
Seeing a dentist for regular check-ups and oral hygiene maintenance can help to protect your teeth against cracks and make it more likely that any cracks will be spotted early.
If you're worried that you might have a cracked tooth or you're due for a check-up, contact our dentists in Mount Lawley today. Call us on (08) 9227 8777 to book a consultation so we can examine your teeth and give you all the information you need about treatments and prices to make fully informed decisions.
Our Mount Lawley dentists also service Highgate, Inglewood and North Perth.