A cracked tooth is a condition that may result from activities such as chewing on hard food items, teeth grinding at night or due to natural process of aging. If left untreated, cracked teeth can lead to further dental complications such as loss of tooth vitality, further fracture of teeth and even complete or partial loss of teeth.
Causes of Cracked Tooth
The most common causes of cracked teeth include:
- Excessive pressure from opposite teeth due to teeth grinding habit
- Large improper filling which hamper the integrity of teeth
- Biting on hard food, such as nuts, ice or hard candy
- Traumatic experiences such falls, fist fights, road accidents, contact sports etc.
- Sudden extreme change in temperature in the oral cavity
- Natural process of aging (commonly seen among population above 50 years of age).
How is a Cracked Tooth Repaired?
The treatment and management of a cracked tooth is done by an experienced dentist at his dental clinic. The first step in this process is a confirmed diagnosis. The dentists obtain a case history followed by a physical examination of the oral cavity. Symptoms which are often associated with cracked teeth include:
- Pain and discomfort while chewing or biting, which increases while releasing the bite
- Sensitivity to heat and/or cold
- Swelling or inflammation of the gum around the affected tooth.
The pain associated with this condition is intermittent and rarely continuous. Sometime the patient does not have any symptoms and the condition may be detected during a routine check-up. A few chair side examinations are helpful in determining the presence and extent of the crack. These involve:
- Using a magnifying glass to examine the teeth
- Bite test and sensitivity tests
- Feeling for a crack by running a dental explorer over the affected teeth, to look for a ‘catch’
- Using dental dye
- Gum probing.
Dental x-ray is not helpful in confirming a cracked tooth as the fracture lines may not be visible in the radiograph; however, x-rays can help in determining the condition of the pulp due to a crack. Once the diagnosis is made, a treatment modality is decided based on the condition of the tooth, location of the crack and extent of the crack.
The most common procedure to treat and cracked tooth are discussed below:
This is a dental procedure where a material popularly known as composite is used to repair any chipped, cracked, misshaped, or gapped teeth. They are long lasting (10 years or more) and durable. In majority of the cases, there is no need for anaesthesia and the procedure is completed in single sitting. The tooth surface is roughed and a conditioning liquid is applied. The composite putty is then moulded, applied and shaped as required. They come in various shades and the thus the final result is natural looking and pleasing. An ultra violet light is used for initiating the chemical reaction which hardens the material. The restoration is then finally shaped and polished for its final look.
Veneers for Cracked Tooth Repair:
Veneers are tooth like covers that are placed on the facial surface of the tooth for an attractive and realistic appearance. They transform the appearance of the teeth and they last for upto 30 years or more. The veneers are custom made for each patient and bonded to the tooth surface.
Crowns to Repair Cracked Tooth:
Crowns are used as treatment option when there is excessive loss of tooth structure or when the tooth does not have enough strength to withstand the biting forces.
This is common if the cracked tooth is associated with pain and if the tooth requires root canal treatment prior to the crown placement. A crown is a cap like cover which is placed over the prepared tooth. It looks like the natural tooth and provides adequate strength the tooth.
Root Canal Treatment for Repairing Cracked Tooth:
Tooth canal treatment is considered if the crack leads to exposure of the pulp or loss of tooth vitality. If the pulp is affected it can cause inflammation and infection in the pulp. It is recommended to get a crown placed after a root canal treatment for added strength and protection. Root canal treatment involves removal of the pulp from the tooth and replacing it with inert, sedative material.
In extreme cases, when the crack causes excessive damage to the tooth such that the tooth cannot be saved, the affected tooth is extracted. An artificial tooth can then be implanted into the gap created. This is called as dental implant. The implant is attached to the underlying bone and acts as a natural tooth. This is quite expensive and can be done only by an implantologist. A cheaper way to replace missing tooth would be placing a bridge.
No Treatment if Minimal Crack in the Tooth:
If the crack is very minimal (hairline crack), and extends only into the enamel, it can be left alone without any treatment. This usually requires regular follow up to monitor any changes in the condition. It is important to ensure that the crack is not associated with any pain and compromised appearance.
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