Cracked Tooth Syndrome: Don’t Let it Go Untreated

Cracked tooth syndrome is a condition that isn’t often talked about—not in the same way as tooth sensitivity, root canals, cavities, and gingivitis. A cracked tooth may not be as glamorous as an abscess, but it’s certainly working behind the scenes in many a mouth, likely contributing to all of the abovementioned conditions! That’s right, cracked tooth syndrome can actually cause many of the most feared tooth and gum afflictions around, and yet few people are even aware that this condition exists.

What is Cracked Tooth Syndrome?

Cracked tooth syndrome is a condition in which a tooth develops a crack of any size. The crack could be just in the surface of the tooth’s enamel or it could penetrate down into the pulp of the tooth where the nerves are contained. It is not uncommon for a person to be caught off guard by an unexplained pain in a tooth that, to the naked eye, appears perfectly fine. Even in teeth that look okay at first glance, there could actually be a hairline fracture so small in the tooth that it can only be viewed under serious magnification. Due to the difficulty of seeing such cracks, many dentists have to make a diagnosis based on the symptoms and a series of bite tests to discover if the tooth is experiencing pain or sensitivity when biting on a cotton ball or another instrument.

The primary symptom of a cracked tooth is sharp pain that strikes when the tooth is used to chew food or an object. The pain typically goes away as soon as the tooth is no longer used to chew. Unknowingly chewing on one side of the mouth can be a sign that a tooth on the opposite side is cracked as the individual naturally avoids chewing with the tooth that experiences pain. Sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages as well as sugary items is another symptom. The main cause behind this pain is that the two pieces of tooth formed by the crack will slightly separate as pressure from food or other objects is increased on the tooth, as with chewing. As they separate the underlying dentin and even the pulp of the tooth may be exposed to an element, an occurrence that is translated through the nerves as a strong pain signal. When the pressure is lifted the pieces of tooth snap back together which can also result in short-lived but intense pain.

Causes of Cracked Tooth Syndrome

There are countless ways that a tooth can develop a crack. The main contributor to cracked tooth syndrome is chewing on things that are very hard or exposing the teeth to excessive stress. Habits such as gnawing on pens, crunching ice cubes, or using one’s teeth to remove the shell from sunflower seeds can lead to repetitive stress fractures in the tooth or set of teeth. Just like a bone anywhere else in the body, constant and recurring overuse or strain can easily damage the outer tissues of the teeth until they give away. This is especially true in adults, as our teeth only weaken as we get older which makes them more susceptible to giving in under pressure.

Cracked tooth syndrome doesn’t only occur over long periods of time, however. In fact, accidents also account for a significant percentage of cracked teeth. If a hard object were to collide with a tooth, such as a glass bottle, sports equipment, or even the ground, the tooth can sustain a slight or significant crack.

The word ‘bruxism’ is not often thrown around in conversation, but most of us know someone who suffers from this condition; a condition that is otherwise known as teeth grinding. Teeth grinding is most an unconscious habit that can be done at any time of the day, but usually during stressful moments or while one is asleep. Bruxism involves clenching one’s jaw while pivoting it forwards and backwards or side to side. The teeth literally grate upon one another which causes the enamel layer to develop faults. Signs of bruxism include powdery residue in the mouth (the debris from destroyed enamel coating), jaw soreness or TMJ disorder, shortened teeth, lack of natural ridges in the back teeth (smoothness), migraines, loose teeth, recurring neck or ear pain, and ringing in the ears.

Treatment Options

There are a few ways that cracked tooth syndrome can be treated, but one’s treatment options may be reduce if the damage to the tooth is very severe. If there is a large portion of tooth remaining around a small surface fracture then it might be possible to simply fill the tooth. For moderate fractures, the tooth may need to be fitted with a crown made of stainless steel or porcelain. The fitting is mounted to the tooth using a very strong adhesive and will protect the area from sustaining further damage as well as preventing painful triggers from reaching the dentin and pulp inside the tooth. This is a long-term solution that usually lasts about five to seven years before the cap may become loose and needs to be glued back onto the tooth or replaced.

If too much of the tooth is missing then the dentist may not be able to fit or re-fit a crown to the tooth. The only option left at this point would be to remove the tooth altogether. After removal there are further options available in the way of false teeth.