Because people are living longer and often more stressful lives, they are exposing their teeth to many more years of damaging habits such as clenching, grinding, and chewing on hard objects. These habits make our teeth more susceptible to cracks.
Although all dentists are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of cracked teeth, some cracks can be especially difficult to diagnose, and treatment may involve a root canal. That’s when an endodontist is required.
The treatment you receive for your cracked tooth will relieve pain, but it will also reduce the likelihood that the crack will worsen. Once treated, most cracked teeth continue to function and provide years of comfortable chewing. Talk to your endodontist about your particular diagnosis and his treatment recommendations.
The most common types of cracks include:
- Craze lines – tiny shallow cracks that affect only the outer enamel, cause no pain, and are of no concern beyond appearances.
- Fractured cusp – a fracture on a weakened cusp (pointed part of the chewing surface), sometimes breaking off on its own and other times needing removal by the dentist. Some pain is involved, but it is usually relieved by removal of the cusp and replacement with a full crown. A fractured cusp rarely damages the pulp, so root canal treatment is seldom needed.
- Cracked tooth – a crack that extends from the chewing surface of the tooth vertically towards the root. In severe cases, the crack extends into the root. The position of the crack often results in damage to the pulp; therefore root canal treatment is frequently needed. Once this is done, your dentist can restore your tooth with a full crown. Early diagnosis is the key to saving a cracked tooth.
- Split tooth – this is often the result of a cracked tooth that has not received treatment. The split tooth is identified by a crack with distinct segments that can be separated. A split tooth is nonrestorable and must be extracted.
- Vertical root fracture – a crack that begins in the root of the tooth and extends toward the chewing surface. Due to their minimal signs and symptoms, these types of cracks may go unnoticed for some time. They are often discovered when the surrounding bone and gum become infected. Tooth extraction is the typical method of treatment; however, endodontic surgery can sometimes save a portion of the tooth.
For more information about Cracked Teeth, visit the American Association of Endodontists website.