03. Cracks

Cracks in teeth can be extremely difficult to diagnose. The symptoms are highly variable. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Pain when chewing or biting
  • Pain upon release from biting
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold
  • Spontaneous pain that comes and goes

A tooth flexes when you bite. This flexing causes the crack to open slightly. When you release from a bite the tooth stops flexing and the crack closes. This movement irritates the pulp causing either pain or sensitivity. Small cracks will cause a little irritation; if left untreated the crack will enlarge and the sensitivity will worsen. The tooth may start to hurt constantly and it is possible for large sections of the tooth break-off. If the crack is allowed to grow too large it could result in the tooth needing to be extracted.

It is prudent to see your dentist once you notice a tooth is sensitive to bite

Craze Lines

  • These are small cracks in the outer enamel (shell) of a tooth
  • They are more common in adults
  • They are superficial and only require treatment if they are an aesthetic concern
  • The integrity of the wall is intact and no work needs to be done unless you do not like the look of them
  • Think of them like tears in wallpaper; the wall is stable but you can see a tear

Fractured Cusp

  • A more extensive crack that weakens a cusp
  • If left untreated the cusp will fracture off
  • It is best to treat this early before the fracture becomes so large it compromises the integrity of the tooth
  • A crown is the needed for such teeth
  • If there is only slight sensitivity to cold the root canal treatment may not be necessary
  • If there is pain to bite or pronounced sensitivity then root canal treatment is necessary

Cracked Tooth

  • This crack is similar to a fractured cusp but it is not weakening a cusp
  • The crack extends from the top of the tooth towards the root
  • Root canal treatment is almost always necessary
  • Early detection and treatment will increase the chances of success
  • If left untreated this tooth will eventually need to be extracted

Split Tooth

  • If left untreated, a cracked tooth will develop into a split tooth
  • Most often these teeth must be extracted
  • Occasionally an endodontist, working closely with your dentist, can save a portion of such teeth
  • Unfortunately a split tooth may develop quickly with no warning signs or symptoms

Vertical Root Fracture

The only viable treatment option is endodontic microsurgery.

  • Unlike all of the other cracks this one starts in the root, not the crown of a tooth
  • If left untreated this will lead to loss of the tooth

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