Cracked Tooth Syndrome is well known within the dental profession. Unfortunately it is often hard to diagnose for a number of reasons:
- Dental x-rays often don’t show the microfractures
- Patients often have trouble pinpointing exactly where their symptoms come from
- Your symptoms are often not reproducible in the dental office.
The most common symptoms is a sharp pain when you bite down that disappears when you stop chewing. Occasionally the reverse will happen and you will feel the pain when you release the chewing pressure. This symptoms may not happen all the time at first. You may only notice them when chewing certain foods.
What is happening is that the microfracture is opening when you bite down and closing when you separate your teeth. Each time that this happens, the crack gets a little bigger and a little deeper. Depending on the direction it takes, it may move toward the outer surface of your tooth (eventually resulting in a broken tooth) or toward the center of your tooth where the dental nerve is (eventually resulting in a toothache).
There are many possible ways that a microfracture (crack) might start:
- Injury to your tooth (being hit, etc.)
- Subjecting your tooth to temperature extremes (for example having ice cream and hot coffee together)
- Age (older teeth tend to crack more)
- Diet (chewing items like ice, nuts, throat lozenges, and hard candy may eventually damage your teeth)
- Habits (biting on items other than food, clenching your teeth, grinding your teeth etc.)
- An unintended side effect of previous dental treatment on your tooth
Once the affected tooth is identified, the best way to treat it is to have a crown or onlay placed on the tooth. (An onlay is a lab made filling that covers your whole chewing surface.) Sometimes you can temporarily have an orthodontic band cemented on the tooth to see if it relieves the symptoms. If it does make the symptoms better, you should proceed to doing the crown. Waiting doesn’t make the problem any better—and under some circumstances, you may end up needing an expensive root canal in addition to the crown if you wait. (If your symptoms do not get better, then you and your dentist will need to determine what the next step is.)
*Note: Information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals.