Cracked teeth exhibit a variety of symptoms including erratic pain when chewing, sometimes after biting pressure is released, or pain when the tooth is exposed to temperature extremes.
In many cases, pain may come and go, and your dentist may have difficulty locating which tooth is causing the discomfort.
There are many different types of cracked teeth. Treatment and outcome depend on the type, location, and extent of the crack.
Craze lines are tiny cracks affecting only the outer enamel. These cracks are extremely common in adult teeth. They are very shallow, cause no pain, and are of no concern beyond appearance which can be restored by your general dentist using cosmetic dental procedures.
When a cusp (the pointed part of the chewing surface) weakens, a fracture sometimes results. The weakened cusp may break off by itself or may have to be removed by the dentist. Afterward, any pain will usually be relieved. A fractured cusp rarely damages the pulp, so root canal treatment is rarely needed. Your tooth will usually be restored with a full crown by your dentist.
This crack extends from the chewing surface of the tooth vertically toward the root. A cracked tooth is not completely separated into two distinct segments. Damage to the pulp is common due to the position of the crack. Root canal treatment is often needed to treat the injured pulp. After proper root canal therapy, your regular dentist will restore your tooth with a crown to hold the pieces together and protect it. Sometimes, the crack may extend below the gingival tissue line and will then require extraction of the tooth.
A cracked tooth that is not treated will progressively worsen, eventually resulting in loss of the tooth. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential to save teeth that are cracked.
The result of the long-term progression of a cracked tooth is often a split tooth. It is identified by a crack with distinct segments that can be separated. A split tooth cannot be saved intact. The position and extent of the crack will determine whether any portion of the tooth can be saved. Endodontic treatment and a crown or other restoration by your general dentist may be able to save a portion of the tooth, on rare occasion.
Vertical root fractures are cracks beginning in the root of the tooth and extending toward the chewing surface. They often show minimal signs and symptoms and can go unnoticed for some time. This type of fracture is often discovered when the surrounding bone and gum become infected. Treatment may require extraction of the tooth. However, endodontic surgery is sometimes useful if removal of the fractured root can save a portion of the tooth.
In spite of treatment, some cracks may continue to progress and separate, resulting in loss of the tooth. However, the treatment you receive is important because it will relieve pain and reduce the likelihood that the crack will worsen. Once treated, most cracked teeth continue to function and provide years of comfortable chewing.