Cracked teeth can happen throughout our lives for lots of different reasons. Whether from an injury, accident, or wear and tear, your experience can be one of a wide range of symptoms. Sensitivity to high and low temperatures, certain types of food, discomfort, acute pain, chronic pain, and more; can all stem from a chipped or cracked tooth that isn’t repaired.
But what happens if you leave this untreated? Is there more potential harm that can arise from not treating a cracked or broken tooth? What are your treatment options? Let’s take a look.
Cracked Teeth Start as Simple Discomfort
Hopefully, you see the dentist every 6 months and if you do experience a chipped tooth it doesn’t cause outright acute pain. But we can’t always wait for treatment on oral problems involving teeth as they can quickly escalate to a more serious oral health problem or become incredibly painful and sensitive. Cracked or chipped teeth are no different. Often when a tooth cracks you first notice it by its discomfort or sharp edge. If you’ve ever chipped a tooth before and find yourself “playing with it with your tongue”, you will know what this feels like.
We get very used to the shape and feel of our teeth and mouth over time. When something changes, breaks, or goes missing from our set of teeth we’ve had since we’re about 12 years old, we notice it and tend to “play” with them. This seems harmless enough but over time these chipped teeth will likely lead to a greater level of cavities and greater breaks. If a tooth chip is from wear and tear that is likely a sign that there is an underlying problem with that tooth or all of your teeth that you and your dentist should be aware of. Cracked tooth repair is a process so be sure you’re getting that started.
Cracked Teeth can Be Painful
From the point of cracking, a tooth becomes more sensitive to cold and hot temperatures and this can prove problematic when trying to eat things like ice cream or drinking hot tea. That tooth pain is more on the lines of nerve sensitivity and this can make you dread mealtime or force you to avoid food and drinks that you like. A crack in a tooth can be a sign of a deeper problem like weakened enamel or something more.
Understanding the anatomy of a tooth will help us understand why a cracked tooth can be painful. Inside every tooth, under the enamel and harder dentin layer, is soft tissue known as the “pulp”. This isn’t pulp like in fresh-squeezed orange juice but rather your tooth’s central nerves and blood vessels. When the outer enamel and tissue become cracked, chewing causes movement of all parts, and this can irritate the inner and sensitive pulp. Over time, the soft pulp becomes damaged to where the body can no longer heal the damage on its own.
The tooth will hurt when chewing and temperature swings will cause discomfort and sensitivity. Left untreated, a cracked tooth will start to become painful even when you’re not eating or drinking and this can lead to trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating, and more. Lots of cracks within a tooth or teeth can lead to an infection of the pulp soft tissue, which becomes more painful and can rot away the nerve endings of the tooth, surrounding gums, and jaw bone. All this being said, you don’t want to leave a cracked tooth untreated.
How Are Cracked Teeth Treated?
There are several different types of cracked teeth and each one is a little bit different. How your dentist will treat a cracked tooth will depend on things like the extent of the damage, crack type, tooth location, level of pain, and more.
Craze Lines & Fractured Cusp
Craze lines are small cracks that only affect the outer enamel of a tooth. This is common for adults as they are wear and tear cracks that are small and do not cause pain but can look unsightly and eventually widen and become worse. A “fractured cusp” is when a piece of tooth chips or cracks and falls off. This is common around teeth that have been treated with fillings and rarely lead to a painfully damaged pulp on its own. Your dentist will need to address the problem before it gets worse and turns painful, oftentimes with a new willing or crown.
Depending on the severity of a cracked tooth it may be treatable on its own or not treatable. If the crack goes beyond the upper hard enamel and the crack extends into the pulp, there are few treatment options left and you may require a root canal and crown to fix the tooth and prevent the crack from widening or deepening.
If a crack is severe enough that it goes below the gum line, a root canal and crown won’t be possible as the crack is too severe. This is why treatment from an early point is so important, your only options left include tooth extraction and dental implant surgery as the tooth cannot be repaired but must be removed entirely.
Split Tooth (Long-term)
When a crack goes untreated for long enough it can become a “split tooth” and appears to your dentist on an x-ray as a tooth split into two or more pieces that are distinguishable. Depending on where the crack starts and ends it may be possible to have a portion of the tooth salvaged by your dentist.
Vertical Root Fracture
Going in the other direction and rare, a vertical root fracture occurs when a crack starts in the root of a tooth and extends upward and outwards to the chewing surfaces. These cannot be visible seen but are usually first noticed due to pain when the surrounding gum and bone of the tooth become infected. Typically a tooth in this state of fracture must be extracted to alleviate pain and dental implant surgery to replace the missing tooth.
Get Cracked Teeth Fixed Early
As you can see from this quick read, many of the problems that arise from cracked teeth occur when they are left untreated. Where a simple fix when the crack happens is ignored, the tooth can degrade into pain more quickly than you may imagine. Even after a short time, a chip can turn into something that requires full tooth extraction. As with most things in life, procrastination with your teeth is never a smart idea. We only have one set of teeth and should do our very best to take care of them and that means going to the dentist regularly, brushing, and flossing every day.
If you have cracked teeth please contact us right away before it becomes a more serious problem. We help thousands of patients every year with all manner of teeth problems here in New York City. For the best in Cracked Tooth Repair Coney Island NY, look no further than over 40 years of local expertise right here at Coney Island Dental.