A cracked tooth might affect only the tooth enamel, or it might affect the entire tooth down to the root. You might only notice pain from a cracked tooth when chewing, or when the temperature in your mouth changes as you eat something hot or cold. But it is important to see a dental professional as soon as possible after you notice a cracked tooth, so it can be evaluated and treated if necessary.
What Causes a Cracked Tooth?
- Bad Bite: Biting down on something hard, such as an ice cube, a piece of hard candy, or a bone.
- Hard Hit: Trauma to the face or mouth, such as being hit in the face with a ball while playing sports.
- Poor Hygiene: Poor oral care can make you vulnerable to a cracked tooth, especially if your tooth enamel is already damaged or thinning.
- Bruxism: Excessive teeth grinding, called bruxism, can cause a cracked tooth or cracked teeth.
How Severe Is Your Cracked Tooth?
- Simple Cracked Tooth: Simple cracks in the tooth enamel are also known as “craze lines.” This type of cracked tooth may not require treatment, but you should still see a dental professional for evaluation. Your dental professional can polish the cracked tooth to smooth rough spots and improve the tooth’s appearance.
- Serious Cracked Tooth: If you have a serious cracked tooth, the fracture could extend from the chewing surface of the tooth down into the tooth root. If you have a serious cracked tooth that goes through the outer layers of tooth enamal and dentin to exposes the tooth pulp, the tooth can become loose and your gums may bleed.
- Split Tooth: In some cases, a cracked tooth splits vertically. If this occurs in one of your molars, your dental professional may be able to salvage one of the two tooth roots that molars have. If the root is too badly damaged, you will need to have the tooth removed and replaced.
- Split Root: A cracked tooth can also start in the tooth root. This type of cracked tooth is obvious and painful, and it can cause inflammation and infection at the tooth root that often leaves tooth extraction as the only treatment.
Treatment for a Cracked Tooth
The options for treating a cracked tooth depend on the severity of the crack, and they include:
- Tooth Bonding: A cracked tooth can sometimes be repaired with bonding, where a tooth-colored resin is used to repair or reshape a tooth.
- Tooth Splint: If a tooth has become loose or displaced, your dental professional can bond the cracked tooth to the tooth next to it to help keep it stable while the surrounding bone and gum tissue recovers.
- Root Canal: If the cracked tooth has damaged the tooth pulp, you may need a root canal to remove the damaged material, as well as a tooth crown, filling, or bonding, to repair the cracked tooth and prevent further damage.