I have been told I have a cracked tooth. What is that and how is it treated?

cracked tooth

A cracked tooth may refer to a crack that only affects the enamel, or it might affect the entire tooth structure down to the root. There are a number of ways to cause a crack in your tooth, including:

  • biting onto something hard
  • having cavities that weaken the tooth and make it susceptible to breaking
  • having had root canal treatment that has weakened the tooth structure
  • having old silver, or amalgam, restorations that cause stress over time
  • falling on your face or being hit in the face.

You may experience a range of symptoms from a cracked tooth. You may not experience anything other than a sharp edge detected by your tongue at the moment when the tooth chips or breaks. On the other hand, you may experience pain on chewing and biting, sensitivity or pain when consuming hot or cold food or beverages, or even spontaneous pain that comes and goes.

What is the treatment?

The depth of the crack determines the treatment required.

If it’s a minor crack, which can also be known as a craze line within the outer surface of the tooth, then no treatment is usually necessary. Minor chips off the tooth surface don’t always require treatment either. The chipped area may be polished to smooth off any rough edges, or a filling material can be used to restore the chipped area – to prevent further breakdown or for aesthetic purposes.

A crack may also extend through the entire crown of the tooth. If there has been no nerve involvement, or pulp exposure, a filling material or a crown may be used to protect the tooth and prevent the crack from progressing. In the unfortunate case where the pulp tissue is exposed, root canal treatment followed by a crown would be the likely treatment.

In some cases, such as a vertical root fracture or a split tooth, the tooth cannot be saved due to the extent of the crack. A vertical root fracture starts at the root end of the tooth and extends all the way up to the crown of the tooth. A split tooth indicates that the tooth has split vertically in half starting from the top of the tooth. In both cases, the tooth will need to be removed.

As always, prevention is better than cure

There are some things you can do to prevent having a cracked tooth or broken teeth. Regular, six monthly check-ups are recommended so your dentist can pick up on any habits such as grinding or clenching, check for any cavities and review any teeth that may require fillings or crowns. A night guard, or splint, may be recommended to prevent night-time grinding or clenching, as well as a mouth guard during contact sport.

Early diagnosis is key to saving cracked or broken teeth in many cases, so make sure you are seeing your dentist for regular check-ups.

Call the team at Core Dental on 13 13 16 to make an appointment today for your check-up.

Dr Stephanie McManus
BBiomed (Melb), DDS (Melb)
General Dental Care