Cracked Tooth? When Do You Need a Dentist?

Perhaps you suffered a fall or an auto accident that resulted in a hard blow to your mouth. You may have bitten down on a nut, a piece of candy, an ice cube or other hard object. Regardless of how it happened, you have reason to suspect that the incident left you with a cracked tooth. If so, you may be wondering what to do next.

Symptoms of a Cracked Tooth

Your teeth are covered by an enamel that is one of the body’s strongest tissues. Directly beneath the enamel lies the dentin, a layer that contains millions of tubes that feed directly into the tooth’s pulp. The pulp is the soft tissue containing the tooth’s blood vessels and nerves.

When the enamel is cracked, the pulp can be exposed. The tooth can become sensitive to hot, cold, sweet or sour foods and beverages. One of the most common symptoms of a cracked tooth, however, is pain when biting or chewing. Although the pain can be rather sharp, it typically disappears quickly. The sharp pain is caused when the crack is forced open from the pressure exerted on the tooth when you chew or bite down. Many people deal with the pain by simply making sure that they do not chew on the side of the mouth with the painful tooth or by avoiding certain foods to which the tooth is sensitive.

It is important to remember that you may not be able to see the crack. Even your dentist may have to resort to X-rays to verify which tooth is cracked and the crack’s size and orientation.

Why You Need to See a Dentist Quickly

If you suspect that you have a cracked tooth, you should see a dentist as quickly as possible. A crack in the tooth’s enamel will continue to grow, and it could potentially extend into the root of the tooth. Cracks also promote the development of infections and cavities. As the crack grows, pieces of the enamel could begin to flake away, exposing even more of the pulp and causing greater pain. In a relatively short time, you could be facing the possibility of a root canal or an extraction.

Possible Treatments for Cracked Teeth

Your dentist will evaluate the overall health of the tooth, the size of the crack, whether the crack has reached the root and similar factors to determine the best procedure for repairing your tooth. He will likely recommend one of the following treatments.

• Bonding: Composite bonding can often be performed without the need for anesthesia. Your dentist will roughen the surface of the tooth and apply a conditioning liquid. Putty will then be applied and shaped. To harden the material, an ultraviolet light will be used. Once the material is cured, your dentist with shape and polish it so that it matches the remainder of the tooth. The life expectancy of composite bonding is typically around 10 years.
• Veneers: Veneers are bonded to the front of one or more teeth. If given proper care, veneers can have a life of 25 to 30 years. Because veneers can be used to provide a variety of different looks, they are a flexible option for repairing a cracked tooth and simultaneously altering its shape or size. After preparing the tooth or teeth, your dentist will take impressions for the lab to create your veneers. You may receive temporary veneers until the final ones are ready to be bonded to the teeth.
• Crowns: If you are suffering a great deal of pain when drinking or eating, the crack may have become severe enough to justify a crown in order to save the tooth. A crown is a custom-made cap that is cemented over your existing tooth. The crown will match the existing tooth in color, shape and size. While you are waiting for the lab to make your crown, you may be given a temporary one.

If the crack has extended into the tooth’s pulp, it may be necessary to have a root canal performed and a crown applied to save the tooth. If the crack has extended below the gumline, it will probably not be possible to save it. The tooth will need to be extracted, but it can usually be replaced with a dental implant. Seeking treatment early can help you avoid a root canal or implant.

Let Us Help

If you know or suspect that you have cracked a tooth, we can help. We can diagnose the problem and recommend the appropriate treatment. Our office is located in Sugar Land, and if you are in pain, we can see you immediately. Call us today so that we can help you ensure the health and appearance of your teeth.