About Your Teeth What is Cracked Tooth Syndrome? - About Your Teeth

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What is Cracked Tooth Syndrome?


Patients sometimes complain of pain on biting.  The symptoms reported can be difficult for the patient and pose a diagnostic challenge for the dentist.  Both can become frustrated because the underlying cause of symptoms is frequently difficult to pinpoint.  Often, patients will complain of pain caused while biting or chewing.  It is frustrating for both parties because the described symptoms are often difficult to reproduce  in the dental office.

Cracked teeth generally occur for two reasons.  Firstly, metals have the potential to expand and contract as we consume hot and cold foods and drinks. The expansion and contraction of the filling is slightly greater than the tooth itself.  So, after years of this type of thermal cycling (temperature-associated expansion and contraction), cracks frequently develop in the tooth structure.  White fillings have the potential to contract on curing and this too can produce stresses or strains within the remaining tooth structure. Secondly, cracks may occur while chewing foods.  Commonly patients will describe a sharp pain episodes in a tooth while eating, and the tooth will then remain sensitive to biting pressure and/or temperature.

There are numerous ways to deal with a possible cracked teeth. Like all dental treatment, treatment should commence with the least invasive, successful treatment and the choice of treatment will depend on the reported symptoms.  The first option traditionally involves the placement of  a bonded filling in an attempt to prevent the cracks from growing further.  The offending tooth structure could be eliminated to prevent the flexing and bending produced by biting. Depending on the depth and severity of the crack, a crown may be necessary to prevent the tooth from breaking.  If the tooth has a large filling or a more severe crack, then a crown is the preferred choice because it covers the entire tooth helping to brace and limit the effects of chewing.

In either case, the problem needs to be addressed as quickly as possible to prevent the crack from growing larger leading to more severe dental problems.  For example, if the crack reaches the nerve of the tooth, then root canal therapy will be required.  The most severe complication would be the vertical tooth fracture. This is often not treatable and requires the extraction of the damaged fractured tooth.

The important points to remember are as follows:

1. Determine the exact source of discomfort first.

2. Address the symptoms as quickly as possible.

3. Begin with the most conservative treatment and progress as needed to eliminate all symptoms.

Such teeth need to be followed on a regular basis to ensure that damage to the pulp has not occurred.  Appropriate x-rays at routine intervals will be helpful for this.  Keeping your dentist apprised of precise symptoms will also go a long way to help in diagnosis.

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